But Mary refused to let her childhood define her as a person. She went through night school, and a lot of hard work and dedication to complete her education at the proper age. Mary wouldn’t accept the idea that she was supposed to be a walking talking statistic or victim of the system.
That was the most important thing to Mary.
Ironically, Mary considers herself an average student – though few average students finish high school in just three years.
“Mary became a much better student after our mentorship involvement,” says Debbie. “Statistics do show a huge difference in a child’s academic progress when a mentor is involved.”
Only two percent of foster children who go to college finish with a bachelor’s degree or higher.
Mary will be working against the odds every minute of her college career. But both Mary and Debbie seem calm while discussing the subject. They give the feeling that worrying about it won’t do any good.
“Debbie brought me opportunities that I would’ve never had if it weren’t for her,” Mary says. She feels strong with her hero there to support her.
Mary has already started her first semester in college and thanks to the Fostering Panther Pride program at FIU, most of Mary’s finances have been taken care of, all she has to worry about is keeping her GPA up to stay in good standing with the program, which is specially designed for foster children.
She entered the semester as an undecided major, but thinks she might want to study communications. “I might want to start my own business one day and only have to answer to myself,” she says.
Debbie believes that Mary will enter a career that deals specifically with people, or perhaps become a professional advocate.
After all that Mary has endured, she’s not too worried about the future at all. Mary believes that focusing on the present is what’s important for the future.
“I live for today and tomorrow – I don’t put too much worry beyond that,” she says.
Tonight, Mary, along with 86 other local foster children, will be celebrating their graduation from high school – a feat only 30 percent of children raised in foster care accomplish nationwide.
Join us in celebrating their victory against the odds.