AIYA KANAWATI / ALWAYS STAY TRUE TO YOURSELF AND YOUR HEART

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"Make sure your story is heard because it is JUST as important as anybody else's."

Aiya Kanawati shares #HerStory:

"I remember being placed in a temporary group home for a month. The scariest part about my experience in the foster care system was being separated from my four younger brothers. They were always in my life and I didn't know how to live without them. My two toddler brothers were placed together. My infant brothers were also placed together and I was placed with a group of girls. It was a confusing and dark time for me because I knew that no family would adopt/ take in five children. But that didn't stop me from checking in on my brothers and visiting them every day. They may not remember this as vividly as I do but the group home I was placed in was not pretty and I was surrounded by pain and darkness everywhere I went. Also, the food really sucked.

I had no sense of direction of where I should be and what my next step was. I had no financial support or emotional support. I think I would've wanted career and job guidance. I was unfamiliar with the college system and what it takes to be a good college student.

However, the foster care system taught me to fend for myself and speak up when I need to. The independence I have when it comes to school, work and family is much different than my peers. I've grown to learn how to be alone while taking care of my siblings and making sure that we weren't separated.

Unless you have a perfect foster family and a supportive system, you have to be your own support system. Reach out to the people in your community and if you see something wrong happening, speak up. Don't let anybody make you feel incompetent or unable to do anything. Fend for yourself and if you have younger siblings, try to fill the parental gap in their life. Use your experience in foster care to grant you a path into college. Don't be afraid to write about it in your personal statement because you experienced something important and college admissions should hear about it. Don't ever think that you don't deserve something simply because of your rough childhood. AND always stay true to yourself and your heart."

Foster Nation