JOHNSON CITY, TN (WJHL)- May is National Foster Care Month. Only three percent of children who experience the foster care system graduate from college, according to Youth Villages.
We talked with one young woman who broke that mold and is now helping others through her experience.
“I think of myself having to have grown up way before I was ever supposed to,” Hannah Harrison said.
For most of the 23-year-old’s life, she’s taken care of herself. “My mom was abusive to me, she was an alcoholic and a drug addict and my dad was also an alcoholic,” Harrison said.
She said from the time she was a little girl, she dreamed of being the first in her family to graduate from college, but as she got older that dream seemed less and less reachable.
“There is so much that went on that no child should ever have to go through, no child should ever have to see,” Harrison said.
But Harrison continued to press on, she graduated at the top of her high school class, and went on to go to East Tennessee state University. While in Johnson City for school, she got connected with Youth Villages Life Set program, a program that helps young adults aging out of the foster care system.
“I started meeting with a counselor who worked with me on life skills,” Harrison said. “Anytime I was feeling down or I needed encouragement they were always there they had my back.”
“We work with them on finding jobs, on meeting educational goals, on being able to work on social skills,” Betsy Butler, assistant director for Youth Villages Johnson City said.
This May, Harrison accomplished her dream and graduated from ETSU. Just two days later she started working full time at Youth Villages, helping kids going through some of the same things she went through.
“I think it’s a huge impact when they realize that hey this is somebody that’s been there, they know what it’s like,” Harrison said.
And to the younger Hannahs out there with big dreams that may seem to get dimmer by the day, Harrison says don’t give up, “I know it seems like right now the situation you’re in it’s really difficult to get through and you don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel but I promise it’s there if you’ll just keep striving,” Harrison said.
Now you can see Harrison living out her own advice, each day striving to use the bad that’s happened to her and use it for good.
Butler said, right now about 70 young adults are in Life Set program in Johnson City. Butler said Youth Villages is always looking for people in the community to help whether that be foster care or mentoring, there’s different ways you can get involved to help other kids like Harrison succeed. To find out more about how to help you can call Youth Villages at 423.283.6500