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Social Services celebrates foster care clients who graduate

fostergrades

Pitt County Commissioner Alex Albright presents Griselle Lugo with a book during a ceremony congratulating LINKS participants who recently graduated. LINKS coordinator Shante Carson also presented the graduates with a gift.

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Ginger Livingston

Saturday, June 15, 2019

Children and teenagers in the foster care system often feel that no one cares.

When faced with a turning point — such as an 18th birthday — teenagers in care find it too easy to walk away from a milestone such has high school graduation without a parent or grandparent to push them back on that path.

Five current and former foster care clients who recently received their high school diploma or GED were honored by the Pitt County Board of Social Services with a ceremony and reception on Tuesday. A total of 10 individuals in received their diplomas this year and two others earned GEDs.

“When I first started (12 years ago) we didn’t have many graduates. We had one or two each year,” said Shante Carson, NC LINKS coordinator and social worker with the Pitt County Department of Social Services. NC LINKS is the independent living services program for foster children.

“In the last couple of years we noticed (graduation rates) had dramatically increased,” Carson said. “We started moving up inch by inch, four or five, but the last couple of we’ve had so many graduates we wanted to recognize those achievements and to congratulate them.”

Along with the traditional gift from Social Services, members of the community reached out to the graduates.

“The Greenville Quilting Guild was so happy about seeing what happened last year (with the graduates) they wanted to do something themselves to acknowledge the success of these young folks and reached out to us,” Pitt County Social Services Director Jan Elliott said.

“They said they were so excited about what happened and they wanted to participate,” she said. “We said yes.”

The Guild presented a collection of quilts made by its members so the graduates could choose a keepsake.

Pitt County Commissioner Alex Albright also presented each graduate with a copy of “The Family of Man,” a book released in the 1950s to compliment a photographic exhibit the features hundreds of photographs from around the world that “was a forthright declaration of global solidarity in the decade following World War II,” according to the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art.

“I am so proud of these folks. It’s so hard to get through high school anyway and what they’ve done is just really admirable,” Albright said. “They have had to do it from inside and some folks just can’t do that.”

Tony Moye, 20, passed his final GED test on Monday after two years of starts and stops.

“I procrastinated a lot. I did. It’s probably my biggest regret,” Moye said. “I wasn’t prepared. I wasn’t mentally mature. I had a lot of freedom and took advantage of that.”

He was 15 when he entered the foster system. When he turned 18 he decided not to join the independent living services program that allows individuals 18-21 to continue receive Social Services support while in school.

“I was still in high school but I dropped out my 12th grade year,” Moye said. “I wasn’t really worried about school at the time. I was just concerned with my new-found freedom.”

But Moye saw friends with high school diplomas struggle to find jobs.

“I thought to myself, ‘I don’t have a high school diploma my life is probably going to be 10 times harder,’” he said.

Moye tried returning to high school, then thought earning an adult high school equivalency might work. He eventually settled on earning his GED.

“Sometimes it just takes a lot of repetition,” Carson said. “It’s a work in progress.”

Moye now is working at Chick-fil-A and is studying welding at PCC. He chose welding because he wasn’t quite sure what he wanted to do next.

“I heard it was a really good program and it was suggested to me and I decided to go for it,” he said. Moye said it is stressful, but he enjoys it.

Jasmine Moore, 20, also received her GED. She plans to study criminal justice at Pitt Community College in the fall.

“Right now I want to be part of Greenville Police Department and where that takes me,” she said. Moore previously worked game security for East Carolina University and now works at Dunkin’ Donuts.

Moore grew up in Philadelphia and was home schooled. When she moved to Greenville her credits didn’t transfer.

“I had to start off as a freshman at 18. I wouldn’t have graduated before I turned 21. I didn’t like that,” Moore said.

Moore received helped through the independent living program as she navigated the world of work and eventually returned to school to complete her GED.

“There was so much stuff happening at one time that I would lose focus,” Moore said. “But in the end it all came together.”

“Your hard work is what did this,” Elliott told her. “You had some people supporting you but your hard work is what did this.”

Maylayisa Joyner, 18, graduated from Farmville Central High School and plans to attend Pitt Community College in the fall. She is deciding on whether she was to study sociology or pursue a career in the medical field.

Joyner entered foster care when she was 13 but returned home before her 18th birthday. With the exception of her older brother, who always told her she could do more, Joyner said she often felt no one cared about her. However she was determined to graduate.

“I can’t be struck in high school. I have to enjoy myself and my first step was to graduate,” she said. “This summer I am going to get a job, get my license and try to get a car by the end of the summer, early fall, so I know I can be truly independent.”

Joyner said she was amazed that the Social Services board members and other people wanted to celebrate the graduates

“Even though I don’t know half these people, they actually care about whether I graduated,” Joyner said.

This is the second year the social services board has hosted the graduates.

“Folks care about the children we are involved with. These are now young adults but to be willing and wanting to reach out and share is really meaningful to me,” Elliott said.

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