BCFS Health and Human Services-San Antonio’s Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program, along with an extensive community of supporting organizations, joined for a Thanksgiving lunch at the Sunset Station in downtown San Antonio, Texas.
Over 200 youth, young adults, and advocates booked a seat in the Arcadian Room for a three-course lunch, including a spring salad, a traditional turkey and stuffing dinner, and a slice of raspberry cake for dessert. Speakers for the event included Chaunice Holley, Miss Black Texas; Shawn Osburn, member of the U.S. Air Force; and Clarissa Acuna, a recent PAL member and future college graduate.
Before lunch was served, Chaunice Holley invited her friend and the lead speaker for the event, U.S. Air Force Senior Master Sergeant Shawn E. Osburn, to take the stage and share his story. Shawn spoke about his struggles and success as a youth, summarizing his experiences with a reminder on the importance of seeking out a family you can choose; a family made up of close friends and supporters who want the best for your life.
“The world will tell you you’re unlovable and worthless,” said Shawn, “But know this: God says something different about you – the people at BCFS and their partners will say something else about you – you are highly valued and you have a purpose for your life.”
Shawn admitted that making the most of this purpose is not easy, and takes effort, sacrifice, and an honest self-assessment.
“This is the hard part,” said Shawn. “The next part of finding your purpose is looking at your past.” Shawn wanted all in attendance to know that God had a desire for their lives, and that achieving this goal required work and patience; an ability to face life’s troubles with a level head.
After Shawn’s message, the room engaged in small talk and fine dining, provided by the RK Group. PAL members stopped by the tables of case workers, some who they hadn’t seen in years, and caught up on life.
As dessert was served, Clarissa Acuna was invited to share her experience as a former youth from foster care, now a young adult nearing the end of her college career at Texas A&M University-San Antonio. Clarissa urged everyone present not to be scared to ask for help from their supporters in life, reminding her audience that no one would understand their needs if they did not first admit they had any.
Clarissa knows because she was once a PAL member herself. When applying for college, Clarissa depended on PAL to help her work through complex government and educational paperwork. She depended on the staff for advice, direction, and resources. What she was given in return was the possibility for potential.
“It’s not our fault that we were born into the circumstances we faced,” said Clarissa, “but it is our responsibility to make our lives better.”
After Clarissa’s message, attendants transitioned to the outdoor pavilion to enjoy outdoor games and further conversation with friends.
Preparation for Adult Living has several more events planned for the holiday season, where they hope to continue fortifying their community and reminding those from the foster system of the help that is all around them.
To learn more about the PAL program, click here.