How a Georgia Group Is Helping Foster Teens Take Back Their Lives

Sam Bracken shares his story with teenagers in his program.(Kevin Garrett)

The grin that enlivens Gi’Nia Stone’s face seems zero brief of miraculous. For many of her early childhood, Stone had small to grin about, as she and her hermit contended with their mother’s fury and abuse. When Stone was 6, a caseworker private a dual children from a family’s Georgia trailer, and Stone spent many of her remaining girl shuttling between some 20 encourage homes.

The statistics for encourage kids like Stone—about 400,000 nationwide—can be grim. Studies uncover a girl who age out of a complement face an increasing risk of stagnation and incarceration. (In many states, they’re typically forced out on their 18th birthdays.) According to a inhabitant survey, 25 percent of these former encourage kids knowledge homelessness.

As a presence mechanism, encourage teenagers mostly shelter into themselves. “I said, ‘I exclude to be harm by anyone else,’” recalls Stone. “‘I’ll live in this burble and it’s where we shall remain.’”

‘How do we keep going,’ asks one immature woman, ‘when bad things only keeps entrance up?’

Then, in 2010, when Stone was 17, she listened about a Orange Duffel Bag Initiative (ODBI), a new life-coaching module for at-risk teens. Cofounded by Sam Bracken, a successful businessman who was once homeless himself (and carried his security in an orange duffel bag), ODBI had an desirous curriculum. Encourage a youngsters to dream. Help them rise strategies to grasp their dreams, down to a nitty-gritty of researching college scholarships. Don’t sweeten a obstacles they’ll face. Surround them with adult advocates, including village volunteers. Create space for them to tell their stories. Then prerogative their work with a duffel containing a laptop.

Over 7 weeks, ODBI’s approved life and executive coaches guided Stone as she grown a devise to turn a pediatric neurosurgeon. They also helped her and a 24 other participants confront their childhood traumas. By a program’s end, Stone felt she had a skills and certainty she indispensable to attend Agnes Scott College.

And shortly after that initial category graduated, county leaders began to take notice of this innovative indication for reaching some of a nation’s many exposed kids.


Courtesy of Gi'Nia Stone
Graduate Gi’Nia Stone now represents encourage kids in a Georgia governor’s office. (Courtesy of Gi’Nia Stone)

Bracken, today’s guest speaker, is fielding questions from dual dozen teenagers in a cafeteria during Atlanta Technical College. “How do we keep going,” asks one immature woman, “when bad things only keeps entrance up?”

“Great question,” says a 290-pound former college football player, whose voice cracks with tension as he talks. “You always have trials. What allows we to go by anything in a brief tenure is a long-term prophesy that you’re vehement about, something that leverages your passion, your talent, your love.”

He should know. Growing adult in Las Vegas, Bracken was beaten and abused. His drug-addled mom, a “den mother” for a motorcycle gang, threw him out during 15. A handful of adults—including Bracken’s doctor, a football coach, and members of his church—took him underneath their wings, charity loyalty and advice. Bracken attended Georgia Tech on an jaunty grant and eventually became an executive during a consulting firm.

Hoping that his life practice could assistance others, Bracken teamed with author Echo Garrett to write My Orange Duffel Bag, an illustrated discourse and self-help primer orderly around beliefs such as gratitude, meaning, and choice. It was published only before Bracken and Garrett launched their coaching module 3 years ago. The course, now 12 weeks long, has graduated 300 Georgia teenagers in 4 cities. Garrett says probably all have warranted a high propagandize diploma or GED or are on lane to do so. (By comparison, 36 percent of teenagers who age out of a complement don’t acquire diplomas by age 19, according to a study.) Bracken and Garrett have perceived queries from around a nation and are looking to enhance into Utah, Alabama, and Florida.

Vernona Moseley, case-management executive during a Hephzibah Children’s Home in Macon, Ga., recently saw 3 of her residents graduate. “They had some-more accent about what they wanted to do,” she says. “They came behind as altered people.” Two now attend college.

Kevin Garett
Teenagers who finish a three-month Orange Duffel Bag march accept a laptop mechanism inside this mystic tote. (Kevin Garett)

But college acknowledgment isn’t a finish goal: ODBI mentors a graduates into adulthood. That’s good news for Stone, who was forced by finances to leave school. “I haven’t mislaid hope,” she says. Her group of advocates is assisting her reenroll in 2014. Meanwhile, she represents encourage girl on a Governor’s Advisory Board for Children and Families. “I’m going to be a pediatric neurosurgeon,” she says. “And we say, ‘I’m going.’ Not ‘I’m trying.’”

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