Class of 2016 Honored at Graduation Celebration!

On Friday June 10, 2016, the South Carolina Department of Social Services Independent Living Program hosted the 4th annual Graduation Celebration. The ceremony officially acknowledged youth who have received their high school diploma, GED, a vocational or educational certification, associate’s degree, bachelor’s degree, or master’s degree.

Susan Alford, Director of the South Carolina Department of Social Services (SCDSS), kicked off the festivities with an encouraging message for the graduates: “Do not let anyone tell you that you can’t accomplish your goals because you can. Surround yourself with great friends, mentors, and adults; it will make your journey to success a lot easier. Congratulations again . . . You did it!”

Tessa Adams gave a warm introduction to members of GOALL and SC NYTD Youth Voice. Then GOALL and SC NYTD Youth Voice shared inspirational poetry and encouraging messages for graduating youth. It’s easy to see why GOALL and SC NYTD Youth Voice members represent youth in foster care throughout South Carolina.

Next up, TerQuieshin “Tee” Pringle honored us by serving as this year’s keynote speaker. Tee is a motivational speaker whose life motto is: “Motivate. Teach. Inspire.” and she brings her passion to her church, Truth Church and Ministries, where she ministers through the word and the power of dance and drama. Thank you for sharing your powerful messages with our youth, Tee!

Then LaToya Reed and Mari Squire presented the Class of 2016 to the guests in attendance. Mari proudly announced each graduate’s accomplishments as the conference center thundered with applause. This year’s class is impressive! Later, one of the graduating youth told us “I never thought I would graduate, and then I’m the first to graduate from my foster family and my real family. So I feel like I have [set] a high standard.”

Finally, this year’s My Guiding Light award was presented to Lydia Martin for her work as a cottage parent at Connie Maxwell Children’s Home. Lydia was nominated by a youth in her care. This youth said “not only is she my cottage parent but she is a mentor and mother figure for me.” Congratulations, Lydia! And thank you for being a Guiding Light to our youth!

After the ceremony graduates and their guests adjourned to the lobby to enjoy refreshments and a complimentary photo booth.

As they prepared to go out into the world as graduates, some of the youth shared their reflections on their experiences serving with SC NYTD Youth Voice and GOALL:

“Serving, for me, was cool. I got to do so much stuff. I got to meet the Governor, speak at stakeholder’s meetings—they actually listen to you, you know? “

“It changed my views on foster care more than my first year. Because I actually like, talked to more youth, and I experienced more and I did more to help better myself while in care.“

“It was very interesting. It was a life-changing experience, really. I got to go to different places, meet different people, talk to different people, learn different stories and, you know . . . It was really great. It was almost like having a second little family. Like I don’t feel normal if I don’t see my GOALL members at least once a month. I really enjoyed it.”

Thank you for serving as a voice for youth in foster care across South Carolina and beyond. We wish all the graduates success in the upcoming years. Whether you’re entering the workforce, serving our country or continuing your education—we are proud of you and your accomplishments!    

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