ALVIN, Texas – Graduation brings mixed emotions for an Alvin teen leaving state custody. She's glad to make her own decisions, but she worries about support.
At Alvin High School, the end of class had administrators playing music. Students celebrated on their way home. Seniors cheered more than others.
“I’ve been waiting for this for so long,” said Chante Powell.
Graduation is Saturday. However, Powell’s road to and from that moment carried busloads of mixed emotions.
“I feel like I won’t make it in the world since I’m already 18 and I’m still in foster care,” Powell said. “I just feel like I won’t make it, but I just have to hold it in the air and know that I’ll make it.”
Physically and emotionally abused by her mom, Powell spent nine years in foster care. In her last semester, she was in and out five high schools. She just settled at Kidz Harbor, a shelter for abused children. It’s her new temporary home.
In her donated suitcase, Powell packed for college. First, she will go to a camp to prepare her for college life. Later, she will start class at Texas State University in San Marcos. In between, she ages out of state custody. Powell is one of thousands of teens in Texas about to be free to make their own decision even though they are still without families and more.
“They don’t have the same support system that other teens can have,” said Estella Olguin, a spokesperson for Texas Child Protective Services. “Other teens can go back home and ask mom and dad if I can take my bedroom set, some dishes, some towels because I’m living in my own apartment. These youth don’t have the same opportunities.”
“I’m kind of scared,” Powell said. “It feels like I really don’t have (many) people to lean on.”
Because she is still in state custody, Powell was able to apply for and get a tuition waiver. However, she still needs a laptop and other dorm essentials. BEAResource helps through its annual graduation celebration. Still, Powell and others have needs.
But as we watched Powell try on her cap and gown, we saw her smile.
“It feels good,” Powell said. “It feels like I’ve already accomplished my goal in high school.”
She has overcome so much and feels ready to overcome again.
“I’m destined to do greater things,” she said.
Houston’s H.A.Y. (Houston Alumni and Youth) Center offers resources to help children transition out state custody. They have a list on their website.