Written by Arthur Gallant, @ArthurGallant27, CAF ambassador and former young person in care.

For many young people, going to school is a normal part of life. But what happens when your life is interrupted by a series of events that aren’t necessarily your fault? What happens when school is no longer normal and instead a burden and a challenge? For many youth in care and former youth in care like myself, that’s what school can be — a challenge!

I’m 24 now but from the ages of nine to 18, I was a Crown Ward of the Children’s Aid Society and lived in 16 different group homes and foster homes scattered throughout Southern Ontario. Since each placement only lasted an average of 6 months that meant I was entering a new school twice per year.

School should be fun and exciting but instead it became my worst enemy. I lost the will to be educated, to socialize, and to make friends.

There was no motivation for me to stay in school, especially since I saw myself without a future. I gave up despite having a dream.

When I was 13 I started to advocate for the rights of youth in care, which quickly evolved into me becoming a mental health advocate. People began to take notice of my talent and my passion. I began to give speeches and spoke to the media, something I continue to do to this day.

From a young age I had always wanted to be a journalist because of my love to communicate. I beat the odds by being 1 of 100 students (out of 1,200 applicants) to be admitted to a journalism program and the only one without a high school diploma. While I enjoyed every second of the program I decided to drop out of the program after doing my internship.

While the media has always been kind to me and has provided me with a platform I so badly need to spread my message, advocate, and quash stigma, it was not something I saw myself doing as a career. I wanted journalism to compliment my career; not be my career.

When I was 21, I left journalism school to undertake a period of reflection to figure out what I REALLY wanted to do. I knew I enjoyed advocating and helping people, but I also really enjoyed courtrooms so doing something within the justice system was a given. Initially I considered going to law school but the expense and length of time it would take was a deterrent.

I have always respected my former lawyer who represented my interests when Children’s Aid launched court proceedings to become my legal guardian. A few years ago I regained contact with my former lawyer who is a now a sitting provincial court judge.

He offered me the rare chance to job-shadow him as he heard motions all day. I learned more about the justice system and how courthouses function. It was an opportunity I’ll never forget and one that inspired me to pursue my dreams. I cold-called some lawyers and had the chance to pick their brains. That’s when I decided I wanted to become a paralegal. I could still represent clients and advocate for people but on a much smaller scale and in a way that wouldn’t overwhelm me. I could also graduate in less time.

I also faced some financial challenges. I was working and continue to work part-time in retail and could find no way out. I live with my single biological mother whose sole source of income is a disability pension. I have no other family. I knew my potential and I wanted other people to see it too. It is difficult to ask for help, especially financially, but I set out to figure out a way to partially offset my expenses before going back to school.

After speaking to my former CAS worker I applied for a scholarship from the Children’s Aid Foundation. It was difficult admitting I needed help but I knew I had the potential to succeed like so many other people.

Nobody in my family has ever graduated from high school and I was the first in my family to set foot inside a college.

So many people believe in my potential and I believe in myself too. With the support of the Children’s Aid Foundation I can now turn my dreams of being the first in my family to graduate into a reality. I have a lot on my plate and I have a constant fear of failure but with the support of the judge, the Children’s Aid Foundation, and so many other people, I know I will see school through to its completion and I will get my diploma this time around.

Read another young person’s blog here.

About The Author

The Children's Aid Foundation of Canada funds programs to help Canada's most vulnerable children and youth, those who have experienced or are at risk of abuse and neglect, overcome the obstacles in life that prevent them from reaching their full potential. We are committed to giving ongoing support to those who need it most.

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