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ADP Scholar Kayla Smith Goes to Washington to Enact Change in Foster Care

June 9, 2017

Community, Foster Care & Adoption

HSVS American Dream Scholar Kayla Smith chats with Congresswoman Maxine Waters during her time in Washington D.C.

“There’s so much that needs to be done,” said Kayla, a senior at Mercy College and American Dream Program Scholar. Kayla is determined to change the foster care system, in particular create resources for kids aging out.

In the Fall, Kayla will graduate with a degree in psychology and hopes to pursue a policy graduate degree at Rockefeller College in Albany, NY. Kayla talks about what she’s learned and hopes to pass down to her brother.

“My brother is about to start college and I’m trying to share with him what I’ve learned,” Kayla said. “College is a lifestyle. It’s about being focused and keeping up with competing deadlines.”

During her time in college, Kayla became secretary of the Psychology Club, which delved into critical analysis of popular works. “We worked with the Dean of Psychology and other professors using popular works, like Moonlight, to discuss psychology and development.”

Kayla hopes to see many changes throughout the foster care system, including eliminating homelessness for youth aging out of care. “No one should be without a home when aging out. There needs to be more rigor in screening foster parents and creating better foster homes. There needs to be more social workers engaging with young people and more work meeting the needs of LGBTQ youth,” said Kayla.

To take this first step in advocacy, Kayla participated in Shadow Day, a program that teams foster youth with Congressmembers for face-to-face discussions in Washington D.C. Kayla had the opportunity to shadow New York Congressman Sean Maloney, who also introduced her to California Congresswoman Maxine Waters. “It was an incredible experience to offer our opinions about the policies that impact us directly,” shared Kayla. “In this political climate, it’s so important to speak up.”

Kayla has come a long way. Growing up, she lived with her aunt. “My brother and I went through a lot with our mother. I was angry about what happened, but I’ve been strong,” Kayla said.

Kayla hopes her peers can overcome, as well. “Go to college and don’t give up. I know sometimes, when you’re in care, it’s easy to lose focus. It’s also easy to prioritize work over school,” she said. “In the end, it’s worth it. Go to school and don’t stop.”