Prior to my arrival in Washington, DC last week I was nervous about leaving my support group back home, acclimating to an unfamiliar area, and as ridiculous as it may sound, making a friend. So far I can say with certainty that I’ve made ten–my fellow CCAI Foster Youth Interns. Over the past seven days, I have bonded with each fellow intern in ways that I never knew possible. While we have traveled from all over the US to work in Washington, DC for the summer, we share one thing in common: we survived the foster care system, and have come here to lend a voice to past, present, and future foster youth.
Upon meeting the fellow interns, I realized that they were just as nervous as I was. However, it didn’t take long before we were sharing stories and planning activities together. The day after our arrival we headed to a retreat in Danville, Pennsylvania, a small town with a population of 4,000. The town was warm and welcoming, and we were more than excited to be staying in a historical home that was once part of the Underground Railroad. There we engaged in group activities that encouraged us to bond, all while learning about what to expect from our summer in DC. The retreat also gave us the opportunity to learn more about CCAI, its staff members, and supporters whose generosity and dedication made this all possible.
After a long and exciting first week as a Foster Youth Intern, we are anxious to begin interning in our various congressional offices. While we are all nervous and don’t know what to expect, we do know that we have each other to lean on.
Washington DC: The cornerstone of the world. The place where so many fights have been won, injustices have been righted, and dreams have come true.
I have dreams. Dreams of one day becoming an official that aids in running this wonderful country that I live in. That’s why when I received notice that I would be a CCAI Foster Youth Intern placed in the office of Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, I related the experience to a kid fulfilling a dream of going to the infamous Disney World for the first time.
I immediately started to correlate politicians to characters thought of in the slumber of children across the world. Many people travel far and beyond to come to Disney world, so the match was made of the individuals I would interact with in the diverse city of Washington.
In addition, I envisioned every rollercoaster as an illustrious building or monument that is placed throughout the metropolitan region. I even went on to correlate places to dine in Disney World, to eateries such as Ben’s Chilli Bowl, where all my friends declared I needed to eat.
Although, I know Washington is going to be an amazing experience, I have in the forefront of my mind the solemn purpose for my journey: to make strides in the direction for improvement to foster care policy. So when I see a “Mickey Mouse” or getting ready to go to “Space Mountain” in Washington I will do my best to relay the issues that are not only close to my heart but the hearts of my other foster care brothers and sisters.
It’s no secret around here that summer is one of the most exciting and favorite times for CCAI. With our programs in full swing, and almost as many interns as staff members, there’s a certain energy in the office that cannot be matched.
Now, those of us in DC are finally putting away our winter coats, driving around with our windows rolled down, and anxiously awaiting the cherry blossoms‘ peak bloom. But we think what’s even more exciting is that in just 2 months the 2010 FYI Class will be ascending on DC to start this year’s FYI program.
Just earlier this week one of our FYIs from last summer called the office. We’re privileged to not only share a life-changing summer with these interns, but to also be included in their lives months and years after they return to their homes. John Paul said something to us so touching that I asked him if I could share his thoughts. I believe his words are powerful and speak to the influence of the FYI program much better than any CCAI staff member ever could. John Paul said,
‘When I came to the FYI program, it was different. I had never experienced a program for former foster youth that treated us like capable adults or expected us to be able to surpass our peers. Chelsea, Emily, Mark, Rebecca, and Kathleen pushed us and encouraged us when times got hard. My supervisor from last summer and I still talk to each other and have lunch together when I visit DC. During the FYI program, I learned so much about myself and my abilities that I have been able to push pass the fear that I might not be good enough for the real world. Every time things start to get hard or I start doubting that I can do something, I just remember the experiences I had with the FYI program and how I could do things I never thought I’d be able to do. I got the opportunity to do something that so few people my age get to do, let alone former foster youth. Without the FYI program, I know that I would never be aware that I could be as good as anyone else, if not better.’
Please continue to check back as we continue to prepare for the arrival of 12 extraordinary students who will soon be making their way to DC to forever impact the lives of foster children as they too are forever changed.