Youth Voices: MK’s Story
By Shaoming Chang
County of Orange Social Services Agency
MK recently graduated from high school and, like most high school seniors, enjoyed the many celebratory activities and events leading up to graduation day. She attended prom, Six Flags Magic Mountain and Disneyland with assistance from a sponsorship program at her high school. She made many treasured memories with her friends and is looking forward to attending Oregon State University (OSU) in the fall.
The 18-year-old credits her resource parents for their unwavering support and encouragement. “Without my resource parents, I wouldn’t have been able to participate on my school’s dance team, earn a driver’s license, graduate high school, get accepted into OSU’s kinesiology program, or reach out for mental health assistance when I needed it,” said MK.
MK and her brother entered foster care when she was 14 and their relatives live out of state. While at Orangewood Children and Family Center, MK created a list of people she knew that could possibly take placement of her and her brother. Her best friend’s family said yes — and they continue to be MK and her brother’s greatest support system.
MK recognizes and appreciates those who have supported and guided her over the years. Her therapist showed her how to deal with anxiety and develop her voice to advocate for herself. As a result, she received the needed educational support and assistance. Her high school counselor guided her through the challenging years. Her social worker connected her to Orangewood Foundation, where she was able to receive a college grant to pay for expenses. Her primary care doctor responded to MK’s questions after hours and gave advice on the college application process and selecting a major. Most of all, she is thankful to her resource parents for opening their home to her and her brother and for never giving up on them.
Her profound sense of gratitude is born out of hope. “My motivation to keep moving forward is the hope that things will get better,” she said. “I know hard work and kindness will set me on the right path with the right people.” Her gratitude helps her deal with adversity and connect with something larger than herself — positive relationships with other people.
Looking back, MK identifies the need for teens to have opportunities to express their concerns and opinions while in care. “I wish the system offered a space for teens to use their voices — to convey their needs and requests. Because I didn’t have that space, I learned the value of patience and giving grace. I took into consideration that other people may have a lot going on in their lives,” MK said.