The Student Becomes The Teacher

Photo: Lakya Lewis

By Leonard Favela

*Featured in BCFS’ annual together magazine

By the time Lakya Lewis aged out of the foster care system, she had lived in ten different foster homes. At 16 years old, she came to BCFS Health and Human Services in Lubbock to enroll in Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) classes. PAL classes teach youth aging out of foster care the skills they need to handle life on their own, like personal finance, job readiness and self-guidance.

Nearly a decade after completing PAL classes at BCFS Health and Human Services, Lakya reflects back on lessons learned.

“One of the biggest things I took away from PAL was knowing available resources, that if at any time I needed anything, who to contact – like go to the transition center where they’ll have people that can help you with whatever you need,” said Lakya.

Only about 2% of youth from foster care ever graduate college – but Lakya defied the odds and earned her Bachelor’s in Psychology from Texas Tech University last year. A few months after graduation, as fate would have it, Lakya became a PAL facilitator, teaching the same PAL classes she once participated in as a student.

She sees a little bit of herself in each one of her PAL students. Most of them have walked a similar path full of roadblocks, disappointments and heartache. Lakya knows many of her students don’t yet understand the gravity of the subject matter.

“It is definitely a challenge I face as a facilitator, trying to get students to understand the importance of skills they’re not yet using at 16 or 17,” Lakya explains. “Youth that are attentive and ask the most questions… are closer to leaving care, so they might be the older students in the class who are 17 and 18 and they’re thinking, ‘Oh, I’m about to leave and be on my own, how do I do this?’ We start the classes so young, at 16, that it can be difficult to reach those youth and actively engage them, since it doesn’t feel relevant to their life at the time.”

“I like to write a note to each of the people who complete my class, thank them for participating, and let them know that even though they’re in the class because they’re all [in the same] CPS system, they’re all individuals.”

In five years, Lakya hopes to have her Master’s degree. In 10 years, she’d like to have a family and be “working with foster youth on a national level.” For youth who have spent much of their lives seeking stability and support, Lakya ensures her students can depend on her.

“I hope that they will learn from me and understand that if they need something, they can call me directly.”