Planning for an Independent Life Ahead

BCFS Health and Human Services-San Antonio held its annual Independence Day conference for youth from foster care, hosting the event virtually for the first time. The conference is part of the BCFS-San Antonio Preparation for Adult Living (PAL) program, and is meant to give youth from foster care the opportunity to ask questions about what they can expect as future college students.

“The Guardians of Five Points” by Diana Kersey

Following last year’s trip to the University of Texas at San Antonio, youth this year got to hear from faculty at Northwest Vista College, one of five schools in the Alamo Colleges District. At the full-day event, youth visited with current students who had been in the foster care system, asked questions of professors at Northwest Vista and spoke to BCFS-San Antonio staff about the benefits available to them as college students.

At a student panel, Krizia Franklin and Matthew Campos – former youth in foster care now enrolled in higher education – spoke in depth about their experience as college students.

“Growing up in foster care, there were a lot of things that were taken from me,” said Franklin. “I started thinking, ‘What’s something no on can take from me?’ And the answer is knowledge; they could take a diploma or a plaque, but they couldn’t steal my knowledge.”

Campos said one thing he wished he had realized the importance of was “creating a network where you can develop a support system…. It’s hard enough going to college and feeling like you’re all alone, and you don’t have to feel that way.” He referenced people like Migdalia Garcia, Coordinator of Service Learning at Northwest Vista College and a dedicated liaison for former youth in foster care, who joined both students on the presentation as a moderator.

“I’m happy to have these two students today because they personify what it means to overcome obstacles,” Garcia said at the start of their panel. After answering a few prepared questions, Campos and Franklin were able to answer comments that came in live from the youth and young adults attending the Independence Day conference.

In one of several panels held with professors from different concentrations of study, future students met with Don Lucas, Ph.D., and Diana Kersey, professors in the psychology and art departments, respectively.

Lucas encouraged future students to “Do what you’re intrinsically motivated as opposed to what you are extrinsically motivated to do,” and not to be surprised if interests change with time. “Don’t think, ‘I should be doing this.’ Do what motivates you to wake up every day and pursue what you want.”

“My career has been all about me having a conversation with the material,” said Kersey, whose art has been commissioned publicly by the cities of San Antonio and Harlingen, Texas, and will soon be privately commissioned for a new office tower in San Antonio. “I love working in the arts. It’s not that anybody told me to do that, it’s what I love to do.”

The conference also featured a virtual tour of the Northwest Vista College campus and a presentation from Roy Juarez Jr., a motivational speaker who spent many of his childhood years homeless or in foster care, and who has spoken to the youth before.

Taken together, the Independence Day event gave an encouraging message from the voices of those who know what it’s like to be in an environment they may feel life has not prepared them for.

“At first I suffered from imposter syndrome,” said Franklin. “You hear people using big words or talking about things you’ve never heard of before. I wish someone had been there to tell me that I was good enough and smart enough to go to college.” Now with two bachelor’s degrees and currently pursuing a master’s degree from the University of Texas at San Antonio, Franklin knows that, while higher education is not easy, it is possible.

Everyone who addressed the youth at the Independence Day conference reinforced the idea that there is no ceiling to their potential other than the limits they place on themselves – something BCFS-San Antonio will be there to remind students if and when the university life tests their limits.