When a former local foster youth contacted us through our Twitter campaign, we learned her amazing story. Read it for yourself below.
Eveline – now a caring, easy-going college student – was only seven-years-old when her mother abruptly left her and her two brothers to fend for themselves. Alone in their house on Parramore Avenue in Orlando, Florida for almost two months, they survived on sandwiches from a neighbor and chips they stole from a nearby convenience store. After their condition was reported to authorities, the siblings became wards of the State of Florida and were separated. Eveline moved from one foster home to the next, never knowing stability or sanctuary. Her grades suffered. Her self-confidence was almost non-existent. She missed her brothers and craved the love and support she saw other parents give to their children.
After nearly seven years in foster care, Eveline was introduced to an elementary school teacher named Dina. The meeting was not out of the ordinary because Eveline was constantly meeting new adults –foster parents, caseworkers and counselors. They had all tried to help, but did not quite understand her. She expected Dina to be no different but as it turned out, when Dina met Eveline, something clicked.
Dina gave her something no one else had been able to give her – hope.
“The connection between us was instant,” Dina said. “When I asked Eveline what she wanted to do with her life, [she said that] she didn’t have any idea because she had never really thought about her future before – she was too busy living day-by-day and had enough to worry about.”
Over the next few years, Dina not only helped Eveline define goals for her future; she gave her the knowledge, tools and guidance to allow her to achieve them. Because of her unstable educational background, the FCAT was a significant challenge for the young girl, but Dina had no doubt that she could pass. She encouraged her to not only complete high school, but to go to college as well.
Today, Eveline is a Junior at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida and is studying social work. Her childhood struggles gave her the understanding and the drive to make a difference in the lives of abused and neglected children.
“I spend every day of my life trying to give back for the chips and sandwiches me and my brothers stole to survive,” she said. “I know I can’t change what happened to us in the past, but I want to spend my life making sure younger generations are taken care of.”
Dina is now a foster parent to another youth, but she and Evelin still share a remarkable bond.
“Everyone wants to leave a mark in the world,” Dina said. “Eveline is my mark.”