For the eighth year in a row, the Bernie L. Bates Foundation (BLB), Inc. and Psi Alpha Alpha Chapter (PsiAA) of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. partnered with the Fairfax County Department of Family Services for their Foster Care Program’s Graduation Celebration for the 2023 High School graduates. This year, the event was held at Fairfax Church, 11451 Braddock Road, Fairfax, Virginia, on August 4, 2023, and this was the first in-person graduation celebration since the beginning of COVID-19.
The Fairfax County Department of Family Services Foster Care Program recognized twelve highly motivated young people during this High School Graduation Celebration.
These young graduates being celebrated were children who were removed from their biological families for various reasons, including abandonment, abuse, and neglect, and several had been moved between foster and group homes. The challenges that stood between them and a diploma were significant.
The high school graduation rate for children raised in foster care is 49.6%, significantly less than the 87% national average, and the statistics on college graduates are even lower. A high school diploma substantially increases the range of job opportunities and earning potential by $9,000.Despite numerous obstacles, including English as a second language for some, these young students graduated due to their hard work and the support of people both in and outside their social circle.Ms. Kamonya Omatete, Foster Care & Adoption Program Manager, served as the Master of Ceremony. Ms. Kendra Smith, Social Services Supervisor, served as hostess and a member of the annual graduation committee. Guest Speaker Mr. Anthony Hynes, a former foster care child, delivered a very insightful and motivational speech to the graduates, telling his story of his making through the complicated foster care system. Mr. Hayes confirmed to the graduates that they can find a way to be successful by not letting their past define who they are or what they want to be.
Brothers Marvin Chisolm, President BLB, and Ray Buckner, Vice Basileus, PsiAA Chapter, congratulated the graduates for their monumental life-changing achievements and provided the attendees a brief history of the BLB Foundation, Inc. and the PsiAA Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., and our community service programs performed here in Fairfax County. This was followed by presenting Certificates of Achievement and a $150 gift card to each student for their accomplishments.
Article written by: Director Bradford Caldwell