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This weekend, Kidsave hosted our first Speaker’s Bureau workshop, a program designed to equip and encourage Kidsave kids to write and tell their stories. And so, on a sunny Saturday morning, several of our wonderful youth gathered around a circle of tables in a small community center. As the kids, hosts, and volunteer drivers trickled in, the room began to swell with the joy that seems to flood every Kidsave event.

 
After the buzzing exclamations of It’s been too long! and You’re graduating already?! simmered down, Sari Grant, head of recruitment for the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS), offered a few opening words.

“You’re here because you are the only person who can do justice to your story,” she said. A few shy heads nodded in understanding. “You have something valuable to share with the world, and today you’ll be given the tools to do it.”

 

Demontae

Demontae Thompson (center)

The workshop began with two model stories from previous foster youth—first from Demontae Thompson, a nationally recognized slam poet and graduate student at USC, then from Shari Walker, a DCFS social workers’ assistant with roots in the entertainment industry. After sharing their tales of tribulation and triumph, the floor was handed to Dennis Danziger.

Dressed in an unassuming blue button-down, jeans, and sneakers, Danziger exuded a vibe only exuded by veteran public school teachers: inspiring and comforting; ready to listen; ready to teach; ready, really, for anything. On top of being an experienced LAUSD high school teacher, Danziger is also a writer and a founder of POPS, a California public benefit corporation sponsoring high school clubs for students who have been impacted by incarceration.

As our Kidsave kids transitioned into the workshop’s writing session, Danziger set out a clear goal for them. “By the end of today,” he declared, “you will have three sentences written: a beginning, a middle, and an end.”

Initially, some of the youth seemed surprised at the thought of spending an entire workshop curating three sentences. However, as Danziger pulled out writing exercise after writing exercise, it became clear that he intended to do something beyond teaching the kids how to write a story—his purpose was to help them find their voices.

In a time where too many children are unfairly silenced by the foster care system—where they are told where to live and what to do; where they are robbed of their agency; where their pasts are ignored and their futures are written off—there is no way to express the importance of encouraging these youths to develop their own voices. To stand strong. To speak honestly and openly not only in an act of self-healing, but as a method of strengthening their community.

 
We are so encouraged by our Kidsave kids’ participation in the first Speaker’s Bureau workshop, and we can’t wait to watch them grow and flourish over the course of the program!

 

All the youth participating in our Speaker’s Bureau program are still in need of host and/or adoptive families. You can learn more about each of them at the U.S. Weekend Miracles Gallery.