by Jade L. Figueroa '21

1st Place Winner, This We Believe 2017

A set of flashing lights peered through the blinds at two o’clock in the morning. I covered my eyes, attempting to focus my vision. I looked up to a man in a blue suit with a polished badge on his chest. My first instinct was to protect my brother. Where was my mother? I was scared and confused. She was nowhere to be found. The clothes from my bureau were tossed into black trash bags, as if they had no worth. My childhood toys were pushed to the side, just like my childhood instantly turned into maturity. We couldn’t say no, we couldn’t run away, we still couldn’t find our mother. I clung to the stuffed animal they gave me, while my brother was being held in the arms of a stranger.

Where were we going? Did I do something wrong? How will I get to school? So many questions with no answers. The dewy smell of the morning grass filled my nostrils as we exited the official’s vehicle and parked in the driveway of an unfamiliar house. I took one step on a “Welcome” mat; that did not feel so welcoming. My brother and I entered a single bed room, where we comforted each other for the few hours that were left in the morning. A few weeks later we were separated.

I became accustomed to worrying about food, clothing and shelter more than academics. I constantly moved from school to school. I always felt like I had to catch up due to the gaps in learning. The challenges I faced threatened my chances of becoming successful. I did not want to end up as my mother; a drug addict. My grades plummeted and my attendance was negligible, until I arrived at Bellingham, Massachusetts. Now I live with a family that has helped me realize what is really important. I did not grow up with the cultural expectation that I had to strive for goodness and that education was more important than anything else, but now I understand and I am focused on my goals.

I know that if anything was going to change, I had to do it. No matter what anyone said or did, my success depends on me.  My past, my mother, and all the statistics against me do not reflect who I am as a person or how my life will end up. However, not every child who goes through the Foster Care system has such resilience as I. In fact, 3% of foster care kids will graduate from college and 25% of foster kids will become homeless by the time they turn eighteen years old. I believe in perseverance. Therefore; I promise to stick to my beliefs and help those who cannot help themselves through my fundraising campaign to offer children backpacks with hygiene, educational, and comforting products in each bag; instead of the trash bag handed to them.

My future is not predetermined by my past. Instead, in high school, I became a two-sport captain, was accepted into the National Honors Society, graduated high school, and now entering my freshman year at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.