Celebrating foster youth, raising awareness Educator’s Association hosts birthday party event in Forestville
The Prince George’s County Educators’ Association hosted a foster care awareness birthday party on May 27 in Forestville, while celebrating the birthdays of youth in the local foster care system.
“We’re throwing this event for foster care awareness and just to give support,” said Jereme Joseph, a math teacher from Clinton Grove Elementary School who obtained a grant to put on the event. “I’m an educator and I had a foster youth in my classroom. From that experience, it was hard at first — he and I didn’t get along, but eventually we ended up having a great student-teacher relationship and I developed a real concern and care for supporting him in all that he did. With that in mind, we had this party.”
The event — sponsored by Wegman’s and It Takes Two Inc. — featured about five vendors, free swag bag giveaways, raffles, gift cards, prizes, resources for foster youth and their families, free coaching, games, motivational speakers and a musical selection from Duke Ellington School of the Arts student Janeesah “Ja’Ness” Tate.
Jamellah Kemp, founder and CEO of It Takes Two Inc., shared how her organization is tied to foster care awareness.
“The reason why we chose to be a sponsor for this event is because we are all things youth and our focus is on the underserved youth who need extra support,” Kemp said. “Our main focus is on students that live in single-parent homes and of course we have foster youth, homelessness and all of those things. So it’s just our way to give some support for our young people.”
Educators’ Association President Theresa Mitchell Dudley encouraged the foster youth to live every day like it’s their birthday and celebrate themselves as they have overcome tremendous strides.
“You need to do something to renew your spirit on a monthly basis and that’s what I do,” said Dudley. “Because nobody’s going to love you like you love yourself and in this world, it’s hard out here. … Learn to love who you are and the fact that God put you here for a reason.”
Pauline Rose Moore shared her story about being a foster child alum and how she and her six siblings bounced around the foster care system. Moore’s biological parents suffered from alcohol and cocaine abuse, and she was molested at a young age by her older half brother, who later died in 1997.
Fortunately for Moore, a New York native, she was adopted at the age of 10. Her first foster mom, who couldn’t adopt Moore because she was white, has remained in her life throughout all the years she was in foster care up until adoption, and even this day, something Moore considers to be a blessing.
“The cool part is I know all of my siblings — I’m one of seven — and my first foster mom is actually still in my life today,” Moore said. “One of the things that I did is I wrote a story. We all have a story and so this is just a piece, a little snippet and it’s called ‘Gabriella and Samantha’s New Mom.’ It’s about two little girls journeying on their way to their new foster mom and it’s actually my story. So the question is will they finally have a place to call home, because that’s pretty much what every foster kid wants — we want a place to call home.”
Moore, who is now a certified coach for The John Maxwell Co., has served in the Air Force Reserves for almost 10 years and is a member of Kappa Epsilon Psi Military Sorority Inc. In addition to being a mentor and first-time author, Moore is co-owner of AWEsome Ministry, founder of Women of Triumph and owns a small graphic design company. Her life vision and mission is to serve God in spirit and in truth, answering to the many gifts that God has bestowed upon her, according to Moore’s website.
“Once you finally realize who you are and your identity in Christ, that’s when you realize that I’ve been accepted all along,” she said.
Marqett Demond Brown of Fort Washington also shared his story. Brown, 28, is a two-time foster alum. He was first placed in foster care at just 18 months old.
“I can’t blame my mom for me going into foster care because I found out that my grandmother was murdered in Washington, D.C., on federal property when my mother was 10 years old,” Brown said. “My mother was taken away from her family and she was raised by a legal guardian.”
Brown said the first foster home he was placed into introduced him to God.
“The importance about that is that I found out that my name was Marqett De- mond Worthy when I was 15 years old. I never really paid attention to my full name,” he said. “As a young child, that was my only safe haven — the fact I found out about this level of faith that I could have and that could fill me to do whatever I need to do.”
When Brown was about 5 or 6 years old, he persuaded a judge to allow him to return to his biological family. It was that point in Brown’s life when his faith would be tested. Brown’s mother was evicted and forced to relocate to D.C. where he nearly lost his life years later.
“When I was 9 years old, someone came to my home one time, trying to get to my mother for drugs,” Brown said. “In broad daylight, the dude pulled a gun out and put it to my head [threatening to kill me if my mother didn’t come outside of the house]. … Long story short, my mom and I [wound up] safe but it was the first encounter I had because of something that stemmed from my legal guardianship.”
Brown said the level of support given to a foster child just to be in a safe environment can go a long way.
“I often had to learn to embrace others as my colleagues or friends or associates with that created sense of caring for others,” he said. “You have to take responsibility to what it is that you want to do with your life. Because sometimes when you live in group homes, some of those children never find someone to look up to.”
The event concluded with a brief presentation on how foster youth can achieve their career goals. Shakeara Mingo, a Howard County resident, was the keynote speaker.
“It’s two parts — always have a plan and know how to execute it,” Mingo said. “I knew that education was my key to get out of foster care.”
Mingo, who graduated from Crossland High School, said the secret to how foster kids can get into college is to tell their story.
“Colleges love foster care kids. Why? Because they have a story,” Mingo said. “I ended up being accepted into the University of Maryland College Park and they gave me a full ride. I didn’t have to pay for no tuition because I told my story.”
Mingo said the other key to success is to befriend like-minded people. She encouraged the youth to associate themselves with a small circle of people who are smarter than and can uplift them.
“I have two friends that already have their own businesses. One of my friends got me into Georgetown [University],” said Mingo, who is now in graduate school at the university. “Haters will tell you that you can’t do something but faith in yourself tells you that you can do all things in Christ who strengthens you. Haters will tell you that you can’t get through this but faith in yourself will tell you that you’re more than a conquerer.”
For Dudley, she said she is very pleased with the positive messages shared at the foster care awareness celebration.
“Sometimes you just have to speak things into existence,” Dudley said. “We are more than happy to host this again.”
Bowie residents Pauline Rose Moore and her 11-year-old son, Elijah Moore, smile as Moore displays her “I Was Neglected, But Now I’m Accepted” t-shirts and first book, “Gabriella and Samantha’s New Mom.” Moore, a certified coach for The John Maxwell...
Prince George’s County Educators’ Association President Theresa Mitchell Dudley speaks to foster youth and their families during a foster care awareness birthday party and celebration event on May 27 in Forestville. More than 20 people attended the...
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Jaemellah Kemp, left, founder and CEO of It Takes Two Inc., networks with Kamesha Clark of Upper Marlboro, a green party candidate for Maryland’s 4th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Kemp was one of the sponsors for the event.
Dudley, left center, dances with a foster child as music plays at the party.