"The system taught me that having resources isn't enough, being strong isn't enough, being resilient isn't enough. It was having the right identity, interpretation, and relationships that helped me get where I am today."

Crystal Dernier shares #HerStory:

"The most defining and challenging experiences in foster care was not being genuinely cared for, not being able to make mistakes without being labeled, not being nourished and supported and not finding a forever family.

What I needed most when I aged out of the foster care system, was someone who had a genuine interest in my well being. I desired what everyone needs, a support system. I've had many mentors but none of them stuck around. I often felt like I was their charity work.

Foster care taught me that although life can suck, the most powerful thing I have is a choice. A choice with the right identity, interpretation, and relationships will lead to a prosperous future of hope, purpose, and wholeness. This is true because I'm living it now. After I aged out, I was a junior in high school and had no support system. I had the freedom to do whatever I want, including skipping school, but I chose not to. With little to no support and no financial security, making the wrong choices could have cost me. Literally! Despite it all, I graduated from high school. Started college at Florida A&M University and graduated with a Bachelors in Criminal Justice and Psychology with a minor in Business Administration in three years. Right after, I started graduate school at Florida Atlantic University and I recently graduated with two Master degrees, one in Criminology and Criminal Justice and the other in Nonprofit Management. My aspiration is to be an influential Christian Child Advocacy Lawyer, have my own agency and political office.

If I could give one piece of advice to someone in the system, it would be that you don't have to be a victim of your circumstances. There's more to life than just pain. There's more to life than just being resilient. There's more to life than just achieving something. The biggest achievement that you can accomplish is knowing who you are in truth because the truth will not misguide or lie to you. It will uplift, empower and challenge you, giving you the right identity, interpretation, and relationships."

Foster Nation