Written by Meaghan Martin, former youth in care & child welfare advocate.
A couple of years ago, I had the pleasure of being featured in The Buzz regarding my own experiences in the foster care system and the ways I have chosen to take them and turn them into something positive for those coming up in that system today. I was asked in that interview about goals and dreams I had for the future. A dream I had mentioned was to one day start up a scholarship of my own for youth.
And last year… I did just that!
2014/2015 was a challenging year for me. I had a lot of life changes that lead me to reflect more on my past and look deeper into myself and really take the time to discover who I am. I had let my past define me more than I realized and I had chosen to let fear get in the way of experiences I really wished I had the courage to embark on. So I challenged myself to a “Year of Yes”. And that meant making my dream of starting a scholarship a reality.
Education is so important — but it can be a way of survival for so many of our youth in care. Education can be their ticket out of a lifestyle they don’t want to be a part of. It can be what changes their life path to something better. It can be glass ceiling breaking, life-changing, dream making, & stigma shattering for those who deal every day with the negativity, the hardships, and the many walls of being in the foster care system.
By creating the One2Another Scholarship through an agency local to me, I wanted to ease some of the financial stresses for youth as they say yes to following their dreams. I wanted them to be able to have the opportunities they truly deserve without feeling the weight of the stigma and pressures of being a youth in the child welfare system.
The first recipient of the One2Another Scholarship was Erin. Erin is an incredible young woman who is continuing to overcome the stigma and struggles that are associated with growing-up in the foster care system. She shows amazing resilience and is proving that by going into post-secondary education, she will be able to take her experiences and knowledge and help those going through similar situations. I had a chance to meet Erin once she received the scholarship and hear her dreams for the future. I have not only established this scholarship to give a financial helping hand to these youth, but as someone who has been where they are and understands all too well how real the struggle is, I want them to know I am here — cheering them on!
It hasn’t always been an easy path for me, and I’m sure many former youth in care can relate. But, I made a choice to take my experiences and turn them into something that could help others today. And in turn, that has helped me to heal. Knowing that sharing my experiences and offering a helping hand to youth as they embark on their futures is helping to change at least one youth’s path has totally been worth it.
A little bit more about Meaghan…
Meaghan Martin is a youth advocate and founder of the Sleep Tight Campaign, an initiative that provides comfort and hope through a pair of pajamas, while also raising awareness on human trafficking and youth in foster care system. When Meaghan is not working her full time job as a constituency assistant for the office of MPP Michael Harris, she finds herself speaking at schools, conferences, and events on the impacts of growing-up as a crown ward and ensuring the voice of the youth in care is heard.
To find out more info on Meaghan, the Sleep Tight campaign or the One2Another scholarship you can contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org