Youth are the future. As cliché and self-explanatory as that phrase is, it is true. Arizona’s Children Association’s Young Adult Services help youth in foster care become more independent and learn life skills as they transition into adulthood. Many of these youth come from tumultuous upbringings and need care and guidance to become the amazing adults who will shape our future. One of our former young adults has graciously allowed us to share her story. This is Keona’s story.
Hi, my name is Keona Rose. You might not know who I am yet, but I believe one day you will. Just like Dr. King, I have a dream. I have a dream to change the world, starting in our own community. This inspiration was bestowed upon me from my pain, my suffering, and the kind hands that have led me along the right path, to where I am at now. I have a long story, and to be quite honest, it is not the prettiest either. I was born in 2000 to Kam and Kenbo who fully loved their baby girl to the farthest reaches of the universe. Early in life, I was subjected to incredible neglect and was placed in foster care for the first time at the vulnerable age of five. After six months, I was able to reunite with my family.
I was excited to be back with my family. I involved myself in many academic endeavors, coached, played sports, volunteered and helped with community services. Although all of my activities kept me busy, my time in foster care deeply affected me. I became severely depressed, violent and unstable. By 15, I found myself back in foster care, living in a group home.
I blamed myself for my instability, for everything. I got involved with the wrong crowd, slowly I became a delinquent, a criminal, and the thing I regret the most, was that I became distant from my family. I was in a dark place. I believed I couldn’t change and I made many attempts to take my own life. No matter the therapy, the medications, studies, and other attempts to get better, I was numb to the situation of my life.
I became a runaway and ran all over Southern Arizona in a desperate attempt to find myself. My mom tried to help me, but I wasn’t in a place to listen, so I kept running. I was homeless, lost, lonely, and involved with people and things I shouldn’t have been. Seeing each of my friends slowly become encased in drug use, crime, and self-hate, I had an epiphany. I didn’t want that for myself. I needed to stop running…
I had to look at my life, the consequences of my actions, and say to myself: This is my story, it’s not pretty, but it’s mine and this is not the end. I knew I could overcome this, I knew I could do better for myself. With help from my now fiancé, Ron, who continued to push me to do the right thing. This time I listened.
I became pregnant with my first child, at 19. This was an opportunity to set my life straight, get my mind right, and be the best role model possible for my unborn son. I reached out to Arizona’s Children Association, where Jessica Marts gave me some wonderful resources and the right tips and tricks to get my new family into a new home, enroll back in school, and start building towards financial stability. I finally reunited with my parents again and apologized for my rebellious youth. I am so glad my parents accepted my past and continue to support my dreams.
Later, my father died unexpectedly. I was devastated. I started to fall into a deep depression again, but Jessica, Ron, my mom, and my son, were all there for me to help keep me on the right track. My dad was my role model and best friend. His passing was a grave reminder that each day is not promised, and we should make the most of the time that we’re given. My father’s death has pushed me to share my story in hopes that I can help someone else going through something similar. I want to continue his legacy and make him proud.
With Jessica’s help, I had access to so many resources. I joined the Youth Action Committee, applied for the Youth Collaboratory Team, and have started to network with as many local organizations as possible. My hopes are to help spread the word on resources available to young adults, and give youth the chance that many miss the opportunity to get.
This is my story so far, and it continues to grow each day. Since I got involved in community resources, it has benefitted, inspired, and motivated me to become a better person. Using my story and firsthand experiences, I hope to inspire the youth reading this very passage right now. I no longer want to be a bad influence, I want to be a voice that at-risk youth can look up and relate to.