INDIANAPOLIS (June 24, 2021) – Twenty-eight high school foster youth celebrated their high school graduation with a special open house Tuesday.
The annual event honors teens in foster care as they reach this life milestone despite challenges placed in front of them. The central Indiana graduates applied to participate in the program hosted jointly by the Indianapolis Colts, Cargo Services Inc. and Children’s Bureau Inc.
After last year’s event was held virtually, this year’s celebration brought the graduates to The Bullseye Event Center in Indianapolis, where they received special gifts and enjoyed dinner among friends and family. The graduates received well-wishes via video from Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb and DCS Director Terry Stigdon, and in person from Children’s Bureau CEO Tina Cloer, former foster youth Legend West – a graduate of the inaugural event – and Indianapolis Colts GM Chris Ballard and his wife, Kristin, who fostered two children they went on to adopt. Steve Fugate, co-owner and CFO of Cargo Services Inc., was the event’s emcee.
“The challenges the Class of ’21 has overcome have been monumental,” Holcomb said via his video message. “You’ve seen most of your senior year unfold on a screen or in a socially-distanced classroom with everyone wearing masks. The pandemic challenged us absolutely in unprecedented ways, so this year, I think earning the title ‘graduate’ takes on an even more extra special meaning.”
When the program launched in 2016, it celebrated just five graduates. It has grown steadily each year, with 2021 representing the largest class yet. Most of the graduates plan to attend college to continue their education. Others will enter the workforce or head to the military.
“You’ve achieved something special, and you deserve to celebrate,” Stigdon told the graduates in her video, “but this is not the end. Wherever you’re headed next, take the strength and knowledge you’ve gained through your personal experiences and keep moving forward. I look forward to hearing about the positive paths you’ll lead as you take the next steps in your lives.
“People will be able to look at you and see someone who has overcome incredible obstacles and sometimes overwhelming odds.”
DCS’ support of older youth doesn’t end at graduation, Stigdon added. Teens aging out of foster care are eligible for older youth services, including financial assistance, resources and mentoring, to ease their transition to adulthood.
Those honored were:
- Alex Alvey – Damar Charter Academy
- August Banister – Beech Grove High School
- Lamarre Bibb – Excel Center
- Alexander Bohman – North Central High School
- Anastasia Busch – Mount Vernon High School
- Dawnyae Cottrell – Ben Davis High School
- Britany Cruz – Ben Davis High School
- Maria Davis – New Palestine High School
- Isaiah Douglas – Hamilton Southeastern High School
- Beth Estep – Fishers High School
- Dominic Frazier – Damar Charter Academy
- Daveion Greer – James E. Davis High School
- Kenneth Harrison – Liberty Christian High School
- Alexis Hatfield – Lawrence Central High School
- Scott Hudson – Carmel High School
- Ethan Mosbey – Franklin High School
- Mang Niang – Beech Grove High School
- Blake Pruett – Jay County School
- Giomar Pujols – Excel Center
- Alex Robertson – North Putnam High School
- Stormy Sanders – Southeast Community Services
- M’Kya Scruggs – Muncie Central High School
- Ayden Soult – Whiteland High School
- Jeremy Spencer – Arsenal Technical High School
- Kayley Thomas – Ben Davis High School
- Justin Walker-Baden – Excel Center
- Donnell Webster – Central Nine Career Center
- Lal Zel – Perry Meridian High School
About Indiana DCS: DCS protects children who are victims of abuse or neglect and strengthens families through services that focus on family support and preservation. The Department also administers child support, child protection, adoption and foster care throughout the state of Indiana. Indiana Child Abuse/Neglect Hotline: 800.800.5556. Child Support Customer Service Kidsline: 800.840.8757 or 317.233.5437. www.in.gov/dcs