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Noteworthy

Students Shine Light on Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Day

Posted on July 03, 2013

Thomas Wise (back row, third from left), Silvia Garcia Murcia (front row, second from right), Christine Malone (front row, first from right)

By Holly Walker 

A chance to connect, share, learn and hopefully, influence change. That’s what three students from John Tyler Community College’s Great Expectations program say they experienced after being selected to participate in Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Day. The three – Christine Malone, Silvia Garcia Murcia, and Thomas Wise – were among 40 foster youth from across the country chosen to travel to Washington, D.C. to participate in the event. Congressional Foster Youth Shadow Day gives foster youth an opportunity to learn from each other; to discover how government works – especially in relation to the child welfare system; to shadow a member of Congress; to share their personal stories; and to discuss ways to improve policies that impact children and youths.

Christine Malone has been in the foster care system for 12 years, and during that time, she has lived in multiple homes and has been separated from her siblings. Since beginning classes at John Tyler Community College, Christine has been focused on her education. She wants to become an elementary school teacher and is working on her General Studies, Teacher Education Specialization Elementary (K-6) degree. While in Washington, Christine had the opportunity to shadow Congressman Bobby Scott of Virginia. She said her time with the congressman was amazing, and that she was inspired by all he has accomplished and is currently doing. Christine said meeting foster youth from across the nation also was inspirational because it made her realize that all of them, together, are really trying to change outcomes.

Silvia Garcia Murcia was born in Honduras and brought to the United States when she was 15-years old. When her father was deported, she was left alone and eventually entered Virginia’s foster care system. She is currently in JTCC’s Allied Health, Pre-Nursing program with plans to continue on into the College’s Nursing program. Her ultimate goal is to one day become a physician. In D.C., Silvia shadowed Rep. Al Green of Texas. Silvia says she shared her story with the congressman and helped him translate thank you notes into Spanish. She says she learned many valuable lessons from Rep. Green, including his belief that dreams can become a reality. Silvia says she also liked the congressman’s view on the importance of appreciating life. When asked how he was doing, Silvia said Rep. Green always responded with, “Better than I deserve.” Like Christine, Silvia says she was amazed to see so many people come together in an effort to bring change to the foster care system.

Thomas Wise spent 12 years in the Virginia foster care system. The first two years, he was placed in 10 different foster homes. Eventually, he found stability, and for the last seven years, he’s remained in one foster home. Despite all the challenges he faced, Thomas refused to become part of a negative statistic. He knows that far too often foster youth never finish high school and even fewer graduate from college. This May, Thomas beat those odds by becoming the first student in JTCC’s Great Expectations program to graduate. Thomas earned a transfer degree in Business Administration and just recently learned that he’s been accepted to Virginia Commonwealth University. During his trip to Washington, Tomas was paired up with Congressman André Carson from Indiana. Because Rep. Carson had to attend close-door sessions about Benghazi, Thomas only had the opportunity to spend a few minutes with him. However, Thomas said he was able to attend some congressional meetings, thanks to Rep. Carson’s assistants. Thomas said the experience was rewarding, that he really enjoyed meeting people who understood each other’s experiences. He also learned that his story can make a big impact on those who have never experienced the foster care system.

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