Category Archives: Words from our youth

A note from a mother

Recently a mother of one of the youth in our care wrote a thank you note to a Program Manager, Ms. Rhonda Outen at Marys Mount Group Home, where her daughter resides. She wrote:

FullSizeRenderDear Ms. Outen,

I don’t know if the families let you know, but I want to personally thank you for giving our kids much needed advice, for shaping the future generation, and for showing our lost kids the way. I know that you have put your heart and soul, made plenty sacrifices over the years, and helped us as parents sleep easy at night knowing that they are safe and in good hands. Also, I really appreciate the kind, uplifting words that you always express to me and bringing my daughter back a changed person.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart, MB

This mother’s daughter recently graduated and is a few days away from being successfully discharged from our program. We are proud of her, we are overjoyed that her mother is proud, and we are gratified to know that our efforts are appreciated and are making a difference. Check back for a follow up article with more information about this young woman and her mother!

Hearts & Homes youth receives Featured Scholar award!

20150527_210734We are very proud to share that one of the young men in our care was recently recognized as a Featured Scholar at his high school! David has been receiving counseling, therapy, academic support, vocational support, behavior modification, and life skills training at John C. Tracey Group Home. In addition to having a stable and supportive home, David found a mentor at his high school – with this foundation, David was able to sort out his thoughts, realize opportunities, and redefine himself.

The high school staff member at David’s high school who served as his mentor was proud to present him with the award and plaque. He said:

“When David arrived at our high school, he had several challenges past and present that he needed to overcome. Many times he was at a cross road. Do I let my past decisions chart my future? Do I understand who I really am? What do I really want to do? More important, where do I want to go? David has often been challenged by his peers. At times these challenges resulted in poor decision making and consequences. I found David trying to separate himself from negative peer interactions and actually coming to me during his lunch time indirectly seeking answers and trying to define himself. I was witnessing a transformation and a reinvention in David.

David would ask my opinion on various topic, in particular, about humanity. I would give my responses and he was receptive. Sometimes he would present me with a deep question and we would discuss it at length. We began to bond and exchange our views on education, behavior, man’s existence, and purpose. My office became a sanctuary for him; a place where he could go and continue to define himself. He continued to express his goals and views on paper, and I would give him feedback. Little did I know that he was laying the foundations for a group he and another peer built. With this group, David has been extremely open, honest, and transparent with his peers about his past dilemmas and present goals.

It is an honor for me to stand here and present this award to David who is a role model for his peers and has earned this distinction.”


David’s story is remarkable because it shows that a young person can overcome anything and achieve great things with a stable home, a supportive environment, and a mentor. If you would like to get involved and mentor, here are some opportunities:

Advice from youth on how to keep your cool

In celebration of Mental Health Awareness Week, we asked our youth at Harriet Tubman Emergency Shelter to give us some ideas on how to keep your cool in frustrating and stressful situations. Check out their tips!

  1. Go for a walk, the fresh air will clear your mind
  2. Count to ten
  3. Take ten to twenty deep breaths
  4. Talk to a friend, your parents, or someone else close to you
  5. Take a nap
  6. Do something that you enjoy like listen to some music or play a video game
  7. Sort your thoughts out and get done what you need to do
  8. Sit down and focus on your breathing
  9. Isolate yourself for a little bit and return to the people or problem when you are calm and ready
  10. Don’t let things get to you, everything is a choice

We are proud of the great advice from our young men and hope one of tips works for you!

A young man finds his way

Today we had the treat of running into a young man who was discharged from our Jumpstart Group Home earlier this year. At the time of his discharge, he had a job and was wrapping up his GED studies. We were happy that he was able to transition from Hearts & Homes into the community but we were still concerned about other challenges he had to tackle.

We were overjoyed today to see him with a huge smile on his face and a new  sense of calm and belonging. He was proud to tell us that he continues to enjoy his job, which he has had for a year now! He has secured a home for himself just down the street from his workplace. With a big smile he said, “life is boring, I just go from home to work, but it’s not a bad thing.”

We are so happy for this young man, for finding happiness, a safe home, and for all that he has and will accomplish!

Finding a forever family


Family isn’t always blood. It’s the people in your life who want you in theirs. The ones who accept you for who you are. The ones who would do anything to see you smile, and who love you no matter what.
– Unknown

One of the dreams of many foster youth is simple, to be connected with others who will care about them; not just right now but a forever family who is also there down the line when they make the scary transition into adulthood at the young age of 21. When many youth emancipate from foster care once they turn 21, they are forced to make decisions and choices without the safety net of a family standing behind them that many of us had at the same age, and the consequences if they head in the wrong direction are much greater. Think about when you were 21 and had a question about some of the scary things about being an adult such as how much your electric bill should be, guidance on how to shop for your first apartment or a shoulder to cry on when you got into your first car accident. Most of us had an adult in our corner to support us when things got rough.

For one of our youth, she has found a forever family in her former foster mother. Lashina entered our Family Ties Therapeutic Foster Care Program as a teen and entered the foster home of Ms. Joyner the summer before she aged out of foster care. Although she was only in her home for a short time, the bond between Lashina and Ms. Joyner was immediate and when she left Ms. Joyner’s home at the age of 21, Lashina knew that if things got rough, she would have Ms. Joyner to turn to. In Ms. Joyner, Lashina had found a forever family. After staying with friends for a few months, Lashina found herself in a bad situation with nowhere to turn and called Ms. Joyner for advice. Ms. Joyner’s advice to Lashina was to come home, so she did. Today, Lashina continues to reside with Ms. Joyner as she gets back on her feet and figures out what she plans to do with her future. For Lashina and Ms. Joyner, the bond they formed did not end when Lashina turned 21; they are now and forever will be a family.

Are you thinking about being a foster parent?
Click here to learn more!

Kemp Mill tours the nation’s capital

FullSizeRenderIn early December, the young men at Kemp Mill Group Home for Boys were taken to Washington, D.C. to visit historic memorials. Led by Counselors Rodney Henderson and Roger Smith, the boys visited the Lincoln Memorial, the Washington Monument, the MLK Jr. Monument, and the Korean War Memorial.

The boys were grateful for the trip; for all of them, it was their first time being in Washington, D.C. Before the day visit to the capital finished, the boys were already asking counselors to plan another trip to visit the Smithsonian museums, especially the National Air and Space Museum and National Museum of Natural History.

The trip was a spur of the moment decision by staff, to get the youth outside and give them an opportunity to learn about the nation’s capital and see some historic sites.

“These type of activities are important because they enhance our residents’learning experience as they study American history in the classroom,” said Mr. Henderson. “We want our boys to grasp the opportunities to learn, that are all around them, and for them to be inspired by the world as they make plans for their futures.”

Mr. Henderson explained that these outings and other unique experiences are opportunities for the boys to realize how many possibilities are in front of them. He also hopes that the boys learn more about community values and team building from the experiences of travelling as a group.

A poem about Martin Luther King Jr.


40 Years Through the Wilderness
By N.W.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
was a man with a dream

He grew up knowing the world
was racist and mean

He always did so well in school
this developed him into an academic tool

He was an Activist by day and a Reverend by night
he had to be… when things didn’t go right

His house was bombed when his wife and kids were there
how horrible, the agony, pain, despair

All the while, he gave promises of civil rights
it was for equality and the investment of life

One hot day, the month before May
a man by the name if James Early Day,
took our Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. away

40 years through the wilderness


A Reflection on MLK

imagesWritten by K.S.

I admire Martin Luther King Jr. because of what he believed in and how he fought hard for all the things he believed. He conquered a lot of things in his life and he has educated a lot of people. He also got his point across without using violence because all he really wanted was world peace. He touched many peoples hearts and changed many peoples minds and he made people believe that the world could be a better place if we all came together and be united as one. He never gave up even though many times it could have cost him his life. He has made a huge impact in this word and he will always be remembered by everyone and all the generations that are to come.

He was a very powerful man and spoke a lot of words of wisdom, for example, “If you can’t fly then run, if you can’t run then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl, but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward.” This is one of my favorite Martin Luther King Jr. quotes because in this quote he is relaying a powerful message and what I get from this quote is that no matter what may try and get in your way or whatever obstacles you may face in life, don’t give up, just keep moving forward in life.

Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most powerful black men in history. He only wanted to gain world peace and to see the blacks and whites come together as a whole instead of seeing them fighting with each other. He also believed that one should not hate the other as they hate them. They should just show them love because showing someone love who has hate in their heart may get rid of the hate they feel toward others. And that reminds me of his quote, “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Martin Luther King Jr. was a great man and his name will always be praised.

What does Martin Luther King Jr. mean to you today?

10303815_10153030538727112_496461201850301520_n-300x219In January we invited HHY youth to reflect on Martin Luther King Jr and what he means to them today. They also read and reflected on some of his quotes. Here are some responses the youth shared:

  • I think it is horrible what is going on in the nation right now. All of the racism and hate crimes. It makes me want to scream! We can’t let Dr. King to have died in vain! He once said, “Not only will we have to repent for the sins of bad people, but we will also have to repent for the appalling silence of good people.” Everybody needs to be aware of what is happening in our country. Everybody should speak up, somehow. Don’t let the King have died in vain. RIP Dr. King.
  • Martin Luther King Jr was telling us that he wish for us to be nice to each other. I fell like MLK is trying to tell us white and black people to get along for once.
  • If it wasn’t for MLK then we wouldn’t have this freedom today and we wouldn’t have a good education.
  • Just let people be free because nobody in this world is better than anybody, so everyone should be treated equally. Everybody has their flaws so just let everybody be free and everybody should just be peaceful.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr was a civil rights leader. If he lived today, he would be mad at the world. He did not fight for equal rights only to see black people getting locked up and getting shot.
  • Martin Luther King, Jr fought so that minorities would have the opportunity to go to college, and now we have a black president. But African Americans are not always using the system* (*they were referring to the opportunities granted them) to benefit and further themselves.
  • Comment on the quote: “Darkness can not drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate can not drive out hate, only love can do that.” – The resident who chose this quote explained how though we may all look different, we are all humans who bleed the same blood and we need to support each other and focus on the similarities between us.
  • Comment on the quote: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.” – The resident who chose this quote agreed that a man’s true colors show when he is placed in tough positions. He said, “MLK was placed in many tough positions, including several attempts to take his life, and he maintained non-violence in the face of the aggression and hatred. MLK was a man of integrity. He was human and he must have wanted to get back at the people who meant him harm, but he chose not to.”

A Poem called “Home”

We are glad to share a poem written by one of our youth when a group of them met with Carol Peck from Poet-in-the-Schools to learn about the art of writing poetry. This poem we are sharing today was written by A.S.!


The back of my family,
The king of my throne,
The guard of the castle,
The one on my own;
I live in a world that most never see,
The place that you say never was or will be;
A land full of love filled with flowers and trees,
Mystical beings, nymphs, hobbits, and fairies,
Eating berries so sweet,
Prancing through my world on feet;
If I see a man, he fills me with terror,
I’ll soar towards my home, to better weather;
I dream of a day when the world will see
The way to live is here with me;
As I glide through the air with my wings full and rare,
My horn shimmering brightly with a golden glare,
I see the place where I’ll be forever and on,
My beauty, my home, my beloved Avalon.
— A.S.