I hope you saw the article in Saturday’s Marietta Daily Journal about Katrina Oglesby. This one has good news written all over it. This remarkable young woman has defied the odds.
A product of an abusive family, she was moved into the Carrie Steele-Pitts home, a private child caring agency that provides community-based (and state-approved) child welfare services for vulnerable youth, at the age of 16.
Oglesby was taken from her parents after a visit to the emergency room, where staff noticed bruises and welts she’d been given at home.
Oglesby told MDJ reporter Thomas Hartwell, “(My parents) controlled everything I did and didn’t want me to be exposed to the outside world. I didn’t even know college existed, and I didn’t know that I could go to college. I felt like I didn’t have a future,” she said.
But Oglesby decided to make a future for herself. She found out when she was placed into the Carrie Steele-Pitts home, she could earn scholarships to continue her education. After attending technical school, she moved to Kennesaw State University to study biology and is scheduled to graduate this year. After that, she will head off to Carbondale, Illinois, and medical school at Southern Illinois University.
Think about it. This young woman had every reason to let herself become a willing victim of an unfair world. Instead, she epitomizes what hard work, initiative and self-motivation can achieve. The world is only as unfair as we will allow it to be.
Last Friday, Oglesby and a dozen other graduates of metro area high schools, technical schools and colleges in Cobb County were rightfully honored for defying the odds. All are products of foster care who aged out of the state’s Division of Family and Children Services and, as a result, foster care.
Sadly, they are the exceptions. Less than half the foster youth in Cobb County, currently 521, receive a high school diploma and only about 3% go on to graduate from college or technical school.
So, how did Oglesby and the others do it? “Find the people who are rooting for you. I was lucky to find those people. You’ve gotta lean on those people because you can’t do everything yourself. I learned that,” she said.
That reminds me that if anyone tells you they are self-made, they are blowing smoke. All of us have had someone who believed in us. Many times. it was a teacher, who saw something in us that we didn’t see in ourselves.
Perhaps it was someone who crossed our paths at just the right time in our life. In my case, it was Jasper Dorsey, a Marietta native, who ran Southern Bell’s operations in Georgia. He took a know-it-all shave tail manager and showed him how little he really knew and proceeded to teach him about both the telephone business and lessons of life. It was like 10 years of boot camp. But hard as it was, he changed my life.
One of the things he taught me was that we should leave the world better than we found it. Otherwise, we had just wasted time and space.
That leads me to another part of the good news story concerning Katrina Oglesby — State Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta. He was the keynote speaker at the graduation function which was at the Cobb County Safety Village. That was appropriate.
In his short time in the Legislature, Reeves has made a major contribution in getting Georgia’s adoption laws modernized, even after a shameful sandbagging by a bunch of right-wing senators a couple of sessions ago who put their ideology before children’s welfare. Undaunted, Reeves came back in the next session and prevailed.
Now, he is working to improve the state’s welfare system. Reeves says he wants to get DFCS the help it needs including reducing red tape, increasing the agency’s resources and working to reduce case manager turnover. He is also looking to support families who choose to adopt a foster child so that fewer children age out of the system without ever having had a permanent home.
Referring to those graduates who have either aged out of foster care or soon will, Reeves observed, “This means they were never adopted. That is one on the greatest tragedies we see happening day in and day out in Georgia. And we have to reverse that.” My betting is that sooner or later, Reeves will be a key figure in making that happen.
So, thank you, Carrie-Pitts Homes and all others who provide foster care. Thank you to some hard-working and unsung DFCS personnel. Thank you, graduates in the foster care system, including Katrina Oglesby, who chose to better their lives. Thank you, Rep. Bert Reeves for taking on a task most of us would just as soon ignore.
You have collectively reminded us that we should leave this world better than we found it. And you are doing just that. Most of all, thank you for giving us some good news at a time when it is in short supply.