Delia Johnson, CYC Founding Volunteer Supporter, Los Angeles Chapter
Rather than tell the story as adults about the things that needed to change, there was a way for us to get young people to feel that they could bring about the change. One thing proceeded after another. Those founding members were really excited to lead each other across the state so the first conference was developed. The youth got to know and learned to depend on each other. These young people, who held the keys to the ideas about how things needed to change, created a lot of change in their own counties as well as for all foster youth in the state.
For young people to go from being given a plastic bag for their belongings when they aged out with no place to go, to actually working to create transitional housing for former foster youth—that’s one of the most powerful things.
People grow anyway but we don’t all have the opportunity to have the kinds of experiences that can really change lives. Those are the positive things you can’t really put your hands on. As adults, we’re just kind of like the link to it. I think it’s that simple. It’s not like there’s a magic wand within us to make it happen. Almost all of the kids come back to say thank you, but I don’t think it’s us so much as it is them.
I think for those of us who have experience hoping in something that then gets recognized, we’re obligated to be vehicles for that to exist in young people. I believe all of us – human beings – have hope. And I do believe the people that have experienced it are the best ones to turn around and assist others by reminding them of that hope and then actualize some of it. It doesn’t look the same for everybody, and it takes time.
I see CYC really being the link for kids that are in care. CYC has historically been the group that could get youth as young as 14 to really come together to get training for leadership, and work with those who have already gone through that process, and are now on their own and giving back. In fact, CYC members go on to develop their own organizations, and many of them stay involved and help train the younger youth to be leaders as well.
It’s a long haul, and the encouraging part is we are not alone.