My name is Tristan and I am 19 years old. When I was 14 I was placed into state custody for getting involved in things I shouldn’t have and after being in custody for 4 years, I was placed into a group foster home.
In a lot of ways, I am a normal teenager who likes normal teenager type things. I like to listen to music from different countries and make playlists. I like to read and watch movies. I like performing arts and going to see plays or stand-up comedy. I also like to experience new things and travel. In February, I took my first plane ride and I’m getting ready to go to Australia to attend a conference on medical technology and research.
My past has shaped a lot of who I am but I will not let it define my future. I grew up in a very unhealthy home environment which lead to me acting out. It wasn’t until I was placed in a group foster home that I felt any freedom. The group home allowed me to come and go as I wanted.
Monroe Harding’s Independent Living program has kind of been my start into adulthood, but with a safety net. I have the freedom to explore my independence and figure out adulthood but still have a support system in place for things I might struggle with. Like most people rely on their family, I have the independent living program to rely on for more than what my family is capable of.
Right now, I’m in college and want to obtain a degree in psychology. I want to be a youth advocate on the national, state or local level. I’d like to advocate for a more therapeutic approach in youth programs, because I have seen a need there. I feel as though my experiences in the system can offer insight that will lead to a more effective approach to how we treat foster youth.
Sometimes it feels like you don’t have a lot of control in your life and that might be true in some things, but no one can ever take away your ability to make personal choices to improve yourself. If you take personal responsibility to work on the things you can control and prepare for things that aren’t in your control, you can make a huge difference in where you end up in your life. Where you are right now is only temporary, but the decisions you make can have a permanent effect on your life.
I find my hope in my personal faith and in the actions of myself and others. Not everyone shares my faith, but many of my beliefs are universal: compassion, personal responsibility, helping those less fortunate… This has made me realize that each of us can make a difference in the world.