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Volunteering Helps Me Too
Marlo Scott
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I started volunteering during my sophomore year of college. I admit it was not just out of altruism: I wanted to enhance my resume and expand my networking opportunities. I realized I would meet successful people volunteering at different places. But I found that helping others helped me, too.

My mother died of heart failure and cancer when I was 11, and my father was unable to keep a roof over our heads. I went into foster care, both kinship and with strangers. I experienced mental and emotional disturbances, and I got in trouble with the law before I turned 18. I turned my behavior around, though, and got myself into college. Now I am a few credits shy of getting my bachelor’s in accounting.

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When I was a sophomore, I found out that the supervisor of my work-study job volunteered with the American Heart Association. I asked her if I could get involved. I became an assistant to the director of community outreach and development. In that role, I helped coordinate and set up events.

I have attended the Go Red for Women Luncheon several times. It gathers investors, medical experts, and concerned citizens to raise money and awareness that heart disease is women’s number one health risk.

Foster Care to Success

Then, when I reached my sophomore year of college, I got to be on the receiving end of a helping organization.

I got a call from an 800 number, and I had no idea who was on the other line.

I timidly said, “Hello, this is Marlo.”

A woman replied, “This is Ms. McLarin from Foster Care to Success, and I am here to help you get funded for college.”

I was shocked but happy. Ms. McLarin then asked where I went to school and what I was studying and told me to set up a student profile in the Foster Care to Success (FC2S) student portal.

From the website, I learned that FC2S is a nonprofit organization that supports college-bound foster youth financially by administering the Education and Training Voucher (ETV) program. The ETV program gives foster youth up to $5,000 a year to pay for college, and FC2S administers that money for some states, including New York.

FC2S also helps emotionally, and academically, by sending youth care packages, and providing support coaches and peer mentors. Because I am a former foster youth, FC2S committed to support me throughout my undergrad college career.

It felt good to get help.

Getting While I Give

Since connecting with FC2S, I feel less alone. Even when I am depressed about losing my mother and the lack of help from my father, I know someone is looking out for me and other college students without parental support. When I need emergency funding, FC2S helps me. My academic success illustrates how FC2S support can change lives. They help empower other foster youth to go to college and pursue a professional career.

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The director of operations and the program manager both encourage me to do my best. The program manager, Maria, a social worker, is very emotional, which helps the foster youth she works with trust her. When Maria cries, everyone understands her empathy—and she cries about everything!

The director of operations is more judicious about showing her emotions; she shows her empathy with steady guidance. She does whatever she can to help foster youth finish their undergrad degrees.

After I had been with them for a year, Foster Care to Success invited me to be part of a national internship called Aim Higher. A group of 25 current and former foster youth, ages 19-23, all in college, came from around the country to meet in Washington, D.C. We worked with the FC2S leadership and visited lawmakers and others who make public policy.

The internship gave us public speaking, communication, and technology production training. We worked on FosterU, an array of videos and media resources that inspire youth to consider college and show them how to prepare themselves.

The cool part about Aim Higher is that all the student ambassadors are former foster youth and all have different experiences with the system of care. We connected on the trip to D.C. and we have stayed in touch. One of my fellow student ambassadors just helped me out when I needed a place to stay when my dorms closed.

Through our video productions, we shared our college experiences, both good and bad, to help youth in care prepare for college.

In my video, I talked mostly about time management and self-discipline. Stress can be overwhelming when juggling college and work, and I recommended getting enough sleep as part of time management and keeping stress down. I also suggested making and sticking to a schedule.

Helping Fellow Foster Youth

My Aim Higher experience inspired me to keep giving back to my fellow foster children. It was hard without a biological family or any emotional or financial support system to get through college. I like being able to give someone what I wish I had had.

During my senior year, I also started an internship with New York City’s Administration for Children’s Services (ACS) Office of Special Investigation, doing policy analysis. I began to learn more about how the foster care system works, and how the state is connected to the city’s notification system.

That, plus my own experience, inspired me to keep volunteering to protect children in foster care. It hurts to be separated from your family, and it’s overwhelming to be at risk of danger on top of separation. It felt good to be part of a division that protects foster youth from abuse.

Shortly after my internship concluded in October 2015, I decided to get involved with New Yorkers for Children (NYFC). NYFC partners with ACS to “improve the well-being of youth in foster care through education, career development, the acquisition of life skills, and strengthening the child welfare system,” according to their website.

NYFC collaborates with ACS on community outreach programs, and providing educational resources for foster youth. They offer scholarships, emergency funding for college students, and back-to-school packages.

I sat on NYFC’s Youth Advisory Board, which advises the board of directors. Working with NYFC helped me meet people and be more social in my spare time.

When I was younger, I used to waste time watching television or smoking or chasing girls. Now, as a college senior, I see the benefit of being involved with organizations. One of them may even want to hire me. Volunteering also brings me together with people who share my interests and values. I would rather meet a woman doing something I have passion for than just pursue random women because I find them attractive.

As I move into my professional career, I might want to become a funder or investor to organizations such as the American Heart Association, NYFC, or Youth Communication, which publishes Represent. I would like to provide help to nonprofit board members, or even sit on a board myself.

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(FCYU-2018-01-20)