NASHVILLE, Tenn.- Children in foster care often have the odds stacked
against them. Studies reveal most drop out of school and end up on drugs or in
jail, but Sunday, at a special graduation ceremony, a group of 51 local
teenagers have proven they can be more than just a number.
Many of these teenagers don't have a family to throw a graduation party for
them, so the Department of Children's Services threw one to celebrate their
success after overcoming much more than just high school.
Kayla Sheffy, 18, didn't think the day would come that she would put on a
cap and gown and earn her high school diploma.
"I know what I've been through. I've been abandoned and abused in many
ways. People gave up on me, and I gave up on myself sometimes," said
Kayla and all of the teens in this room had to overcome challenges far beyond
the classroom and far beyond their years.
"They told me I was never going to amount to something, and I believed
it," said Sheffy.
But now, she believes something different. Kayla Sheffy has plans to go to
Community College in the fall and then earn her bachelor's degree.
"You don't have anyone to support you or push you and say this is
something you need to better yourself in life. You don't have that
support system," said Tonisha Johnson, TSU graduate.
Statistics show most children in state custody never make it to the end of
high school with a diploma.
"They are more likely to use drugs, drop out, more likely to be
homeless. So these kids have in many instances started to change their family
tree," said Rees Greenman, Davidson County DCS.
Sunday, these 51 Nashville teens are changing those disturbing statistics.
It's the largest group in Davidson County to graduate: 49 from high school and
two with a college degree, and DCS is celebrating their resilience.
"I think it's phenomenal simply because a lot of people who are in
custody don't have family. It makes you feel special," said Johnson.
All of the grads were given a free lap top courtesy of Connected Tennessee.
Tennessee lawmakers recently gave the foster care system a huge show of
support, by extending a key program designed to provide services for 18 to
21-year-olds who have been a part of the foster care system. It's
designed to ease their transition into adulthood.
The program was slated to end this summer, but lawmakers voted to extend it