Editor’s Note: Kenisha Anthony is a first-generation college graduate who used her CAP, Inc. Scholarship to pursue a degree in social work. Through the College Assistance Program, Inc., the Foundation and the Miami-Dade County School Board assist MDCPS students, like Kenisha, who’ve exhausted financial assistance but who have unmet needs to attend the college of their choice. Scholarship applications for the 2020-2021 school year open on January 23rd.

I had a rough start at adulthood, but trial and error and the power of self-perseverance ultimately saved me.

I was removed from the custody of my parents and placed into the foster care system at age four. Although every month, an assigned case manager monitored my well-being, and every six months, a judge did the same, I had not been taught the necessary tools to thrive as a self-sufficient adult. I went from caregiver to caregiver for 13 years. My final placement was classified as non-relative care with the case goal of another permanent planned living arrangement. In this kind of placement, I qualified for case management services, Medicaid, which ended on my 18th birthday, and a college tuition exemption that I would be unable to immediately use. When I turned 18, I was emancipated and released from supervision by the state, and I was frustrated.

Pictured: Kenisha Anthony, author of LABELED: Ward of the State.

The day of my final court hearing, I decided that it would be the last time I would be told what I could or could not do. It was up to me to fend for myself with little to no income. With one year of high school to go, I was going to get my high school diploma and pursue higher education. I saw college as my “road to independence.”

On my journey, through research, networking and building relationships, I found mentors like Suze Guillaume, a Miami Dade College advisor, who were more than willing to support me. I discovered resources and helpful organizations, including Emy’s Promise and the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation. I found scholarships such as the College Assistance Program, Inc. With the guidance of mentors and resources under my belt, I went on to earn an Associate in Arts from Miami Dade College, a Bachelor of Social Work from Florida State University and a Master of Public Administration from Florida International University.

Now, as a 28-year-old, self-sufficient adult, I reflect on my struggles and wins. I earned the credentials to join the field of child welfare to be the change I hope to see in the world. I use my voice to share my lived experiences to educate others and impact systematic change as a youth and foster care advocate. I share my triumphs to empower others, like me, to show up. There will always be someone who says, “no.” Yet, there will also always be someone ready to open a door.

To students who may find themselves feeling unready to take a leap, I say, “go.” Explore resources, take opportunities and live a fearless life despite any obstacles.

Kenisha Anthony is author of LABELED: Ward of the State. A portion of earnings made from her memoir will contribute to a scholarship fund to aid young adults in their success pursuing higher education and gaining independence. You can hear Kenisha share her story at Books & Books on February 1st.

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