15 Local Foster Youth Shattering National Graduation Statistics

Beatrice and Will

Filling out applications to pursue her extravagant dreams, unwanted memories flooded Beatrice’s thoughts from her past.

Beatrice, a foster youth at Place of Hope who is graduating from Palm Beach Gardens High Shool, explained how filling out FAFSA and scholarship applications, although exciting, is also a heart wrenching process for her and all of the other foster youth who desire to attend college. As the students do not have an array of information on their immediate family, they are unable to answer a vast amount of questions on these applications.

Given the troubling situation foster youth face at this exciting time for other students, it also is a factor in steering foster youth away from the college application process at all.

Place of Hope, the largest children’s organization in the Treasure Coast and Palm Beach Counties, is shattering negative graduation statistics for its foster youth in care.

Since 2001, the children’s organization has celebrated 100 percent of its high school seniors graduating, against the statistics of a mere 30 percent of foster care youth graduating from high school nationwide.

As the family-style foster care agency lines its streets with vibrant balloons and congratulation banners on June 12, its 2020 graduates will stand in their lawns smiling and waving as they are congratulated at a safe social distance by a graduation celebratory parade.

All of the 14 high school 2020 graduates at Place of Hope have conquered a battle many people never imagine facing. The organization is even celebrating one of its young adults, Will, graduating from Southeastern University with a Masters in Social Work. Place of Hope’s young adults are conquering a number of hard situations, like overcoming language barriers and caring for babies.

Lucero, a Place of Hope 2020 graduate of Palm Beach Central High School, said “Never give up! Dream, dream and dream,” to inspire all of the children and youth in the organization’s care.

Many of the Place of Hope graduates are motivated to earn Bachelor’s degrees and beyond, like Beatrice who is devoted to medicine and aspires to become a Trauma Surgeon or ER Physician. Beatrice’s commitment to challenging herself in her academics stems from her productive perspective that she is no longer a victim of her situation, but a survivor of it. “I am going to be the one whose controlling my future. But, in the right way,” Beatrice confidently said.

Place of Hope is ranked #1 in Charity Navigator for “Youth Development, Crisis Services and Shelter” and has been rewarded a Platinum Seal of Transparency on GuideStar for four years.

Charles Bender, Place of Hope Founding CEO and Board Member, said, “We are shattering statistics. We have 15 young people graduating who statistics say should never make it. What is even more amazing, is that every young person who has been in our care at the time of their graduation, has successfully graduated. Many of them continuing on to post-secondary. We have had five of them purchase their very own home through our community partner, Habitat for Humanity.”

Throughout Bender’s 20 years of leading Place of Hope, he has formed committed partnerships with community members to always lift up the most vulnerable populations in the organization’s neighboring communities. When he sees a vulnerable population that needs to be reached, he said there are always community partners who raise their hands to help.

Place of Hope’s Graduation Sponsors are all committed to the organization’s mission and making the graduates experience special, Bender said. Among the 2020 Graduation Sponsors, is longtime supporter Jennifer Houston with the GEO Group.

Houston said, “The GEO Group Foundation has been a proud supporter of Place of Hope since 2011 and would like to extend a congratulations to all of Place of Hope’s 2020 graduates.”

GL Homes is Place of Hope’s 2020 Graduation Presenting Sponsor. The 2020 Graduation Community Partners are Best Foot Forward, Coastal Click Photography, Dr. Leighan Rinker, GEO Group and Julian’s Kids.

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