John is the oldest of ten children. He grew up homeless in Miami moving from shelter to shelter with his parents and his siblings. Eventually, the Department of Children and Families found his family living without power and water. They declared child neglect and took 13 year old John and his siblings away.
His brothers and sisters went to foster homes in groups but John went alone. Growing up with nine younger siblings, it was heartbreaking for John to not see or speak to his family for a year.
Fortunately, after a year, John moved into a new foster home where he was reunited with two of his brothers. He loved being around his siblings but he would soon age out of the foster care system. Aging out is a daunting process that leaves young adults to find housing, pay rent, attend school, and work with very few resources and no permanent family. John was happy to be with family but he knew the hardest part of his life in the foster care system was soon to come.
John was able to attend Miami Jackson High School for all four years. Stability in the foster care system is hard to find and it came at a cost for John; he spent over two hours each day commuting to school and back. John was committed to graduate from the same school he entered as a freshman.
Before aging out, John spent time volunteering at the Children’s Home Society. The staff took John under their wing and guided him through the aging out process. They wanted to ease the transition to independent living for John. John went all around Miami on a search for safe and affordable housing. With the help of Children’s Home Society, John’s situation was explained to a compassionate landlord and John was able to secure affordable housing directly across the street from his high school. For the first time in years, he could get to school in minutes, not hours.
After graduating high school, John enrolled in New World School of the Arts College for Graphic Design. The program was very rigorous and because he had to work while going to school he could not keep up academically. But John was not willing to give up. In 2009, he enrolled in Miami Dade College to bolster his academic record with hope that he could one day return to his Graphic Design program at New World.
Around this time, John participated in a program for aged out foster youth. There he met the Director of the Juvenile Court Contact of Educate Tomorrow who invited John to tour the organization’s offices. Educate Tomorrow works to ensure that students who qualify for tuition waivers under Florida law receive all the benefits for which they are eligible.
Through Educate Tomorrow, John met CEO and President of Voices For Children Foundation, Nelson Hincapie. Nelson saw John as the perfect candidate for Voices’ program, It Takes A Village. The program is designed to help motivated aged out youth successfully attend and graduate from college. John was a dedicated student but faced several obstacles in returning to his graphic design program at New World College.
Because of Voices’ It Takes A Village Program, John was able to re-enroll in his graphic design program at New World College. Speaking about his involvement with Voices For Children, John says, “I guess it is destiny.” The program currently covers John’s living expenses, which include rent, food and clothing. Voices also funds John’s school supplies so he has all the tools necessary to be successful. He will receive his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts in May of 2015 and hopes to work for a nationally recognized graphic design company.
John is extremely grateful for Voices For Children’s support while pursuing his education. “They don’t forget about you,” John explains, “They make sure you succeed and persevere and they don’t let you give up.”
Be A Voice and help give a student like John the resources he or she needs to be successful. Be A Voice by Donating to Voices For Children or by becoming a Guardian ad Litem volunteer.