Taryn-Marie, a 2019 National Gold Award Girl Scout, tells us about her drive to increase opportunities for teens aging out of the foster care system.
I’ve had a lot of support in my life, and for that, I know I’m fortunate. The college has always been a focus at my house, especially with my two older brothers telling me what things would be like and being taken on college tours with my family. Being a Girl Scout for 13 years has, of course, given me extra support on top of that to go for my dreams and accomplish everything I want.
I got thinking: what would it be like if I didn’t have all this incredible support in my life, and how much harder would my life be right now? Then I started to think about who doesn’t have this support, and foster kids really stood out to me as a group who can feel really unsupported and left to figure things out for themselves. Foster kids grow up, you know? But that’s something most people just don’t think about.
It’s not right that some people have more opportunities than others, but that’s the way it is now. That’s why I focused my Girl Scout Gold Award on raising the percentage of foster care youth who transition from high school to college—right now it’s only about one in ten—and to help them have the best experience possible once they were there.
I worked with the Child Placement Review Board in Delaware and asked foster kids what they needed in terms of prepping for college, getting in, and being able to focus and succeed once they started classes. Based on that, I created a website full of information and a tip sheet for foster youth that was even adopted by Trunks of Love, an organization dedicated to helping people without a lot of resources do well in college.
Probably the most rewarding part was getting donations of college essentials to make dorm kits and distributing them to a dozen local teens who had been through the foster system. I got to meet two of those people, and it was humbling to think I played even a small part in their future. Who knows what young people are capable of and what they’ll do with their lives? For these kids, at least, that potential now had a place to go. It was the best feeling.
Being a National Gold Award Girl Scout opens up doors for me, without a question. But that’s not really the point. When you’re lucky enough to have support in your life, you’ve got to use it to support others—and that’s exactly what I’m here to do.