During a reception with author Antwone Fisher, several area foster youth learned that no matter how difficult life may become, they can achieve their dreams.
Before joining the Navy and becoming a best-selling author, Fisher spent most of his youth in foster care, suffering abuse. His life story is captured in the 2002 film Antwone Fisher, which he wrote.
Current and former foster youth, including a few Wright State students, had a chance to talk to Fisher during the reception June 11 in Wright State’s Robert and Elaine Stein Galleries.
The reception opened the Connecting the Dots Conference, sponsored by the Montgomery County Children Services and Workforce divisions. Fisher spoke at the conference, which examined methods to ensure success of foster children after they emancipate from care.
Fisher encouraged the foster youth at the reception not to be afraid to seek help and talk to others about their challenges. “I think it’s healthy for everybody to share their story with somebody from time to time,” he said. “You can’t live your life inside of yourself. You have to . . . make family.”
He also told them to not to back down from adversity. “When life is hard sometimes you just have to take the smack, take the fat lip,” he said. “Later on you realize how brave that was. When you’re able to take a few licks nobody can hurt you after a while.”
Wright State psychology student Nautica Hereford spent part of her youth in foster care, only to lose her mother after reconnecting with her during her first year in college. She urged youth to pursue a college education.
“They can take your clothes, they can take your shoes, they can take your money, they can take your things that mean the most to you,” she said. “But one thing they cannot take away from you is your education.”
Simone Polk, assistant vice president for student services at Wright State, said Fisher demonstrates that success in life, although not easily achieved, is possible even amidst adversity.
“Many college students experience difficulties that challenge their pathway to success. Foster youth who aspire to attend college face many obstacles along that pathway, which include access to higher education, academic preparedness, unemployment and homelessness,” she said.
Foster care alumni can be successful in high school and college, especially if they receive the “proper support, guidance, advocacy and purposeful direction from professionals who inspire foster care alumni to realize their true potential, visualize their dreams and to pursue their dreams with a sense of fortitude,” she said.
Fisher became a ward of the state after being born in prison to a teenage mother. Abuse marked most of his 14 years in foster care before he was sent to reform school in Pennsylvania. He emancipated after graduating from high school at age 17, then he found himself homeless on the streets of Cleveland.
Fisher’s life started to turn around when he joined the Navy. He then became a federal correctional officer before taking a job as a security officer at Sony Pictures. While at Sony, Fisher took a free screenwriting course that eventually led to a career as a writer and producer. He is the author of several bestsellers, include a memoir, Finding Fish.
The reception was sponsored by the Wright State College of Liberal Arts and the Office of the Vice President for Student Affairs and Montgomery County’s Office of Family and Children First.