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"You get out in the real world and come to the realization that life is much more than a SYSTEM. It's about making your own choices and sadly, youth in the system are not being granted that privilege."

Ta'Hari Jackson shares #HisStory:

"Honestly, I remember one weekend around Christmas time, all of my peers in my group home we're gearing up to go on home passes for the holidays. Everyone but me. At that moment I definitely realized something wasn't right about the picture of just me being present in an eight-bed group home. At that moment I said to myself, “ damn, it really is just ME”, and that realization both hurt and built me up at the same time. Challenging is the system in itself, oh how it rips you away from your loved ones and surroundings only to spit you out in a city no one in your family has ever been to. That was challenging; always bouncing around from home to home, school to school, you finally bond with a staff member or a peer and then outta’ nowhere; BOOM, your moving counties. Playing musical chairs with stability was challenging.

Being in the system taught me how to adapt to different personalities & environments. Not that it's a good thing but I've had seventeen jobs in five years and have lived in 30 different cities since being placed in the system at age ten. That’s a lot of bouncing around. I'll tell you what though- there's not a soul that I couldn't get along with because I've had so many roommates, had to deal with so many staff members and had so many different friends and classmates. I'm the guy who can be friends with the “weirdo” that no one in school talks too. I can walk into any company and have a legitimate chance of getting hired because there are so many different skills on my resume. From the food industry, working with kids at BGC of America, to being a receptionist, warehouse and I could seriously go on for about another paragraph but the lack of longevity is something I’ve never been proud of. All the movement was overwhelming yes, my childhood was never still, but the game of Musical Chairs has honestly taught me how to move to any beat and sit in any chair.

When I was emancipating from the system, I needed role models and preparation the most. Man you get everything done for you in the system. Someone is there to tell you when to go to sleep, wake up, when it's time to eat, when it's time to go home and visit family; then at age eighteen you get the boot and have to go fend for yourself. So when I emancipated, I was left to figure out how to balance personal and work life, and things like how to effectively spend $200 at a grocery store. Youth emancipate and have no clue on what their talents and dreams are. Most don't even know who they are. “Character Identity & Development” isn't being implemented when there should be a huge emphasis on “WHO ARE YOU” really? Role models are vital for anyone looking to better themselves. If someone my age was around me going to school, maintaining their job, doing what made them happy, I truly believe it could have rubbed off on me and given me hope like “if he can do it I can too”.

Some advice- do more of what makes you HAPPY. I see so many of my brothers and sisters scrambling trying to find purpose and drive. I feel like our purpose is whatever makes us TRULY happy. I remember joining Job Corps behind a promise that someone made to me. I had no interest in any field at Job Corps but I was told that "it was in my best interest to go." So I committed...and failed miserably. A complete waste of my time; I didn't really apply myself because I was uninterested. Now ask me if that promise was fulfilled. The lesson learned is always beneficial, but never let someone tell you what’s best for you. Only YOU know what makes you TRULY happy."

Foster Nation