The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Foster Care Writing Contest (Staff Shout-Out): I Took the Advice
Mr. Vern, Mercy First
Evaj M.

When I got to Mercy First, I was charged with gang affiliation and intent to sell heavy drugs and illegal firearms. Mr. Vern, a youth support counselor, asked me, “Would you die for your gang?” I said, “Yes.”

He said I was I was a stupid idiot. “Why are you gonna die for people who only use you to do their dirty work? By the end of the day, you get a street name and in 15 years, that stuff won’t matter. Come on. You should quit that gang life, man.”

I started to trust Mr. Vern because he helped me get back on track. Mr. Vern helped me with bad days and gave me advice, which he told me to take or leave. I took the advice and used it to my advantage.

Even when I have a really bad day, Mr. Vern makes me laugh. Once I was mad and told him why and said, “Yo, Mr. V, I’m gonna AWOL.”

He said, “Don’t do it. I know you’re pissed off, but don’t make things harder for your mom. Just listen and do well for her so she can be happy.” He also told me there is a time where you need to grow up and stop smoking weed and doing drugs.

If it wasn’t for him, I’d probably have AWOLed again and done some really stupid stuff. I’d have the wrong mentality and I would have been killed because of the way I used to speak. Now, I have wisdom, knowledge, and funny jokes from Mr. Vern. Now, I think smarter and try to have empathy and sympathy for people in situations.

Mr. Vern, I know I’ve only been at Mercy First for three months, but I think everybody can agree, you are the temporary house dad while we’re here. Thanks for everything. I really appreciate it.

Tell Us Your Story—Win $100

This column is written by our readers in care. Tell us about a staff who believed in you, listened to you, advocated for you, gave you great advice, who in any way made your life better. Email your essay to with the subject line Foster Care Writing Contest. Essays will be edited for length and clarity. The writer of the essay we run will receive $100.

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