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.

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