A celebratory spirit filled the Grand Room at the Huntsville Botanical Garden as Kids to love hosted its 18th Annual Scholarship Luncheon July 21.
The event honors foster youth who have graduated high school and plan to pursue a college education or a career track that requires advanced or technical training.
Fifteen foster youth representing north Alabama and south-central Tennessee were in attendance and recognized for this milestone achievement. In total, Kids to Love will award 35 scholarships this year. Only 50% of children in foster care graduate high school so these young people have already beaten the odds. Their career aspirations include engineering, graphic design, and social work, among many others.
Five scholars received special In Memoriam scholarships, aimed to honor the legacy of longtime Kids to Love supporters. Those scholarships included the Standing in the Gap scholarship in memory of Snow Kinney, The Trevor Atwell Memorial scholarship, The Billie Hughes Memorial Scholarship, The Scott Butler Memorial Scholarship and the Dorothy S. Davidson Leadership Scholarship to honor the late Dr. Dorothy Davidson whom Davidson Farms, the Kids to Love group home for girls, is named after.
Foster youth-turned-advocate Sgt. Lisa Arnett inspired the scholars and attendees as the keynote speaker. Arnett experienced foster care and homelessness as a child. Now, she speaks publicly about foster care, homelessness and sexual violence.
As a young adult Lisa joined the National Guard and currently serves as a Non-Commissioned Officer. She was recently highlighted in a video produced by the Army which recognized her for foster care advocacy. She encouraged the scholars to define their “why” and to take control of the hand they’ve been dealt.
“Don’t quit at the first ‘no’,” she said. “Keep asking. For every agency that tells you ‘no’ there will be 10 who will tell you ‘yes.’”
Sgt. Arnett also instructed the students to put together a resource tool kit now so they will know where to turn for help, and she told them Kids to Love should be their first stop.
In fact, Kids to Love has been a “first stop” for many children in foster care. One of those youth is scholarship alumnae Laila-Rose Hudson, whose story was shared through video prior to the scholarship presentations. Laila-Rose graduated in May from the Moritz College of Law at Ohio State University.
To date, Kids to Love has awarded more than 900 college scholarships to foster youth.