04/11/2011 07:46 pm ET | Updated Jun 11, 2011

Life After Foster Care: Believing I Can Succeed

My name is Jessica. I am a college student currently in foster care. I have been a ward of the state for more than 13 years. At a young age, my mother was diagnosed with a serious illness and couldn't take care of me and my younger brother and sister. Unfortunately, my father was dealing with his own struggles, so at the age of seven, I entered foster care. Thankfully my siblings and I were all placed together, which sadly, is not the case for many children in our situation. Even at that young age, I felt very protective of my younger brother and sister. My life had changed dramatically and I was forced to grow up quickly.

As we went back and forth between different foster homes, I would daydream of a beautiful house filled with heart-shaped mirrors, a billion dolls, and a huge, king-size bed that I could share with my brother and sister (hey, I was only seven). When it became clear that my parents weren't going to get better, we went to live with my grandmother. She wasn't financially stable and didn't know how to speak English. She tried her best to provide for us, which wasn't always easy.

Now as a young adult, I thank God for being in foster care. I know I am a strong woman today because of all that I went through as a child. New Yorkers For Children has been such a blessing. At the age of 18, I was unsure of my future. College was a goal, but I had no idea how to make it happen. New Yorkers For Children came into my life and encouraged me. One day, they sent me a package containing so many necessary items for school; from a laptop to a book bag to school supplies. This gift made me feel much more prepared to study and focus on accomplishing my goals. New Yorkers For Children has been there for me ever since.
I recently joined their Youth Advisory Board where I meet with others in foster care to plan awareness events and speak about how we can help at-risk children. I love being a part of New Yorkers For Children because they genuinely care for youth in foster care. I know what it feels like to have nothing and to have someone reach out a hand in friendship. Being a part of this organization inspires me to give back to my community. I participate in New Yorkers For Children events that help to create unforgettable moments for young people who often go without these kinds of opportunities.

I also volunteer at my church as a youth leader. I counsel young girls in need of guidance and a safe haven. This is my passion. It fills me with joy to help others in this way.

Now at age 21, I will soon age out of foster care. It is a difficult time for me because I have to look for an apartment, continue my education, and apply for jobs to support a life on my own.
Despite the challenges I will face, I have hope that everything will turn out fine (as I did when I was a child). I am fortunate that I had New Yorkers For Children by my side to help me overcome the obstacles that life in foster care sometimes presents. It is good to know they will continue to be a source of encouragement as I transition out of care. I look forward to sharing my experiences with others to demonstrate that with a little support, the sky is the limit for your future, no matter what your past may have been.