Celebrating Many Milestones at Graduation
“Success is seeing a kid graduate when everyone said the odds are they’re not going to do it. It’s seeing a kid get the job that they thought they could never get. It’s knowing I was a part of it, because they didn’t know if they were going to make it.” — Rose, foster care provider.
This June marks a very special life achievement for five teens in Albertina Kerr’s youth group homes. Just like thousands of kids across the country, they are graduating and earning their high school diplomas.
For two graduates, Sarah and Ryan*, this rite of passage signifies their achievements at school as well as accomplishments in meeting personal goals set with their support team. The focus of the team is on providing kids with the skills they need to live as independently as possible once they become adults.
As residents of Albertina Kerr youth group homes for kids ages 7 to 18 with developmental disabilities and mental health challenges, the graduates received around-the-clock support and life skills training.
Sarah is quick to identify the changes she has seen in herself since she came to Albertina Kerr at age 11. “I’ve learned coping skills and I can solve problems,” Sarah said. “I’m listening to people and not ignoring them. That’s what I used to do.”
She also has big ambitions, and hopes to set an example and inspire other girls in Kerr’s youth group homes. “I’m excited for graduation because friends will look up to me,” she said. “I want to be a waitress. I like to cook and really like helping people.”
Ryan, who said his favorite class in high school was physical education, hopes to be able to use what he has learned in school and in his home to help him land his dream job. “I want to be a logger someday,” Ryan said. “I like staying active and being outside.”
While graduating from high school is an exciting time for these teens, it can also be bittersweet. Once they turn 18 and become adults, they must transition into new living situations.
Albertina Kerr staff are currently part of a state-wide initiative to seek out financially sustainable options that address the needs of youth with developmental disabilities as they transition into adulthood.
In the interim, Kerr has opened two adult group homes specifically for young adults working toward increased independence. That gives these graduates, and many more to come, hope for a brighter future.
*Names have been changed to protect confidentiality