Tyler Youth from Foster Care Graduate

BCFS Health and Human Services-Tyler Honors 2016 Graduates

Photo: Graduates with their diploma

TYLER – Thirty-three youth from the foster care system were honored at a graduation ceremony at Lago del Pino Restaurant, coordinated by BCFS Health and Human Services-Tyler and the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services. {Photo album of the graduation on Facebook}

“We recognized the hard work of 33 graduates,” explains BCFS Program Director Carla McCalope. “Thirty-two graduated high school, and one earned an associate degree in kinesiology from Tyler Junior College.”

Minister Brandon Hall of Tyler’s St. Louis Missionary Baptist Church delivered a keynote address at the ceremony on May 17. Constable Dunklin made a formal proclamation, and each graduate received certificates from Texas State Senator Robert Nichols and Texas Governor Gregg Abbott.

“Graduation is an important milestone for anyone, but it’s especially noteworthy for the young adults we serve from foster care,” says McCalope. “In addition to the normal stressors of being a teenager in our fast-paced world, these youth overcame abuse, neglect or family tragedies. Many of them have bounced around to various foster homes or group homes, without the chance to put down roots. Through all that, our youth stayed in school and graduated! It’s certainly a momentous occasion in their lives – one worth celebrating!”

Sadly, less than 10% of foster youth nationwide ever go to college, but youth from BCFS-Tyler are working to defy the odds – several of them will attend Stephen F. Austin State University, Texas Women’s University and Tyler Junior College.

Youth interview courtesy of Tyler Morning Telegraph:
Senior Katie Johnston is excited to reach this milestone and said she wants to make things good now that she’s graduated. “I guess after everything I’ve been through it kind of just feels like I can go out and start my own life and make my own decisions,” she said.  Johnston lost her mom when she was really young. She ended up living with her grandparents, but shortly after they got sick, she says she ended up in foster care, because there was no where else to go. But that hasn’t stopped Johnston. “I found a really good home, I’ve been there for almost four years so I’ve had a normal high school life,” she said. She’ll be attending Stephen F Austin in the fall where she’ll study Theater and International Studies. Johnston said she hopes to go into the FBI as an international investigator.

The event included dinner for graduates and their guests, courtesy of Randall and Donna Brooks’ Lago del Pino, and gift presentations, courtesy of Kohl’s and Dillard’s, that included luggage sets and electronics. Project Linus, a national organization that provides handmade blankets to youth in need, gifted blankets to the graduates. Novedades Luly donated floral arrangements for the graduation ceremony and dinner.

BCFS-Tyler serves youth in foster care, those who aged out of the system, other young adults facing challenges like homelessness, poverty, and those recovering from physical and emotional abuse. The center is a “one-stop shop” that provides counseling, case management, and assistance with education, employment, housing location and medical care.

To learn more about BCFS-Tyler, visit www.DiscoverBCFS.net/Tyler.

*Statistics provided by Promises 2 Kids

BCFS is a global system of health and human service non-profit organizations with locations and programs throughout the United States as well as Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia and Africa. The organization is a national leader in medical sheltering and emergency management and response, providing critical emergency support services to federal, state and local governments. BCFS also provides residential services and emergency shelters for children who are abused or neglected; assisted living services and vocational training for adults with intellectual disabilities; mental health services for children and families, foster care and adoption services; medical services; early education; transitional living services for youth who are at-risk and those in the juvenile justice system; residential camping and retreats for children and families; and international humanitarian aid for children living in impoverished conditions in developing countries.