Glenda Wright’s story
At nine years old Glenda’s grandmother became her legal guardian, along with her three brothers. A year later, Glenda’s grandmother passed away. With no one else to care for Glenda and her brothers, they entered the foster care system in western Kentucky. Initially, they were placed in a foster home together. Then, Glenda was separated from her brothers and moved through three additional foster homes before transitioning into independent living.
At 16, Glenda began working with her independent living coordinator on her transition plan once she was old enough to recommit. Glenda chose to recommit because she wanted to go to college.
Glenda says being a foster child made her feel, at times, like an outcaste, unwanted, hopeless, and confused. While some of her foster parents tried to validate those negative feelings, she tried to remain positive. “It has made me stronger,” she says. Foster care built a family with some of her caregivers and she is grateful because, she says, “It made me grow up, love myself.” It helped her value who she is and what really matters. The foster care experience “made me straighten up and appreciate what I have,” shares Glenda.
Growing up poor and going through the hardships of foster care brought her closer with her brothers. Forging strong bonds between them they are very close today. She is even a proud first-time aunt. Glenda says the little family she had was very important to her, and her grandmother always put a big emphasis on God, family, and respect of self. She encouraged Glenda to stand up for her beliefs. Now Glenda says she asks herself often, “How would grandma feel about this?” She wants to make her proud.
Encouragement for Adults caring for Kids from Hard Places
Teachers, social workers and some of her foster families have been important figures along the way. In 2016, Glenda served as Campaign Manager for Julie Hawes Gordan, who ran for and won a seat as a Daviess County Family Court Judge. She says that Gordan has definitely been a strong female role model in her life. Glenda spends annual holidays with her long-time best friend and her family.
To foster parents and life coaches, Glenda says, “Being fearlessly willing to do this job is amazing, so I always say thank you.” She understands that it’s not easy to love someone you really don’t know and bring them into your life. She knows it can take a toll. She reminds foster parents and those who care for foster kids that youth are in foster care for a reason, and that usually comes with trauma of some sort. “Remembering and being willing to stick with that kid and work through those issues will make you better,” she says. Older youth are harder to place because the truth is that “a lot of people don’t want them.” They “just want someone to say ‘I love you and I want you.’” Glenda wonders whether she’d be where she is today if adults like her social worker hadn’t told her they believed in her.
Making dreams a reality
Today, Glenda Wright is a 21-year-old senior at Murray State University and will graduate this spring with a degree in business and a minor in legal studies. Glenda is a recipient of the Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarship (KEES), Pell and CAP grants, and a tuition waiver through the State of Kentucky to help finance her education.
In addition to working nearly full-time on campus and as a youth advocate, she is a full-time student and is currently deep in the law school and competitive scholarship application process. Glenda plans to attend law school in the fall of 2017 and is considering a dual program for her JD and MBA. She is not sure what type of law she will practice, but her vision and focus is unwavering. Glenda calls herself “a total geek for law” and has wanted to be a lawyer since she was a little girl.
In her role as youth advocate, Glenda has the opportunity to share her story with other foster youth and those transitioning to adulthood. She tells them about herself, her struggles and where she is now. “I try to be a light” in what seems dark. She empathizes with them and knows how desensitizing it can be to have other people dictating their lives, but Glenda likes to empower youth and help them see the good the can get out their situation and how it can help them reach their hopes and dreams, whatever they may be. Glenda Wright is an inspiration.