50 Foster Kids Awarded Scholarships Friday For Hard Work

Steve Miller
July 27, 2018 - 8:25 pm
Michael Fiorito is one of the scholarship winners from DCFS' program.

WBBM Newsradio/Steve Miller

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- More than 50 young people who have been in the state's DCFS system have received scholarships Friday at the Thompson Center.

"I ended up in foster care because of neglect, basically," said Samantha Young of Petersburg - near Springfield.  The 18-year-old is now bound for college - with a scholarship.

"I was like, 'No, this can't happen," she said. "I cried."

The scholarship process was competitive. Even so - the prospect of failure is on her mind.

"I am very grateful, but I also know that it can get taken away just like that," she said. "Because good things happen.  But also, bad things happen if you do bad things. So if I do something bad, I can mess up my whole future."

She says her fear is not keeping her grades up.

"It's like you've already been through so many obstacles," she said. "College is going to be another one. But you just have to realize this great thing has been given to you.  So you need to use it to your best advantage."

Karen Cook and her daughter Braylynn attend the DCFS scholarship ceremony Friday, July 27, at the Thompson Center.
WBBM Newsradio/Steve Miller

One young woman received the Pamela Knight award, given to a future social worker and named in honor of the social worker who died after being beaten while doing her job.

The recipient: 20-year-old Karen Cook of Paris, Illinois - which is just west of Terre Haute.

She went into DCFS care when she was 11. And since then has lived in more than 10 homes. She got pregnant when she was 13.

"And my foster parents at the time told me that I could either raise my child and move out of their home or give the baby up for adoption and stay in their home," she said. "I chose to keep my child and raise her."

And her 6-year-old daughter Braylynn was with her - to see her mother get a scholarship and the Pamela Knight award.

"I want to show her you can do anything if you put your mind to it," Cook said."I graduated high school with her. I'm getting ready to graduate college. I'm going on, furthering my career. We just bought a house...  You just have to overcome and keep pushing."

Samantha Young attends the DCFS scholarship ceremony Friday, July 27 at the Thompson Center.
WBBM Newsradio/Steve Miller