My name is Brian and I represent Project Everlast in Nebraska as a proud member of the Leaders United group with Foster Youth in Action. I went to the Leaders for Change conference last year and was really struck by all of the stories I heard that were similar to mine. So many other youth talked about the problems of abuse, addiction, poverty, injustice – all things that I could relate to.
I was taken away at 6 years old from an environment where there was easy access to alcohol and cigarettes. The adults around me turned out to be hypocrites, talking about God but not letting their actions match their words. With every punch, I punched back. Finding God myself has changed everything for me. I know that I’m not perfect (no one is!) and even though I screw up, I know that I am forgiven. Even though I live in the shadow of the family name they gave me, I forgive them. I let the rain wash off the dust of the past.
Even with the encouragement of some teachers, there were many people who never thought I’d walk across that stage to get my high school diploma, but I did just that. I’ve overcome so much. When I discovered my gift for songwriting, I knew it would be my ticket to freedom. Music is my home. I don’t think I can take all of the credit for what I write. I know that I’m a conduit of a bigger power source. No matter what, I choose hope.
I make sure “hope” is in all of my rhymes. Someday, I want to be both a musician and a social worker. I would perform free concerts for foster youth and donate the proceeds to places like Project Everlast and Foster Youth in Action.
The work our state does is truly amazing. We recently helped get a sibling bill passed to keep more brothers and sisters together. I literally jumped up and down when I heard the news! I’m excited to keep the momentum going. Before the bill was passed, I would tell other kids there will be a time in your life when your sibling will be right by your side, and until that day comes, here I am. They’re my family now. We come together in unity, respect, and encouragement. It’s all made me realize that “family” can be defined in many different ways. We all have hearts with scars, no matter what our childhood looked like or the paths we’ve taken. It takes work to see other’s pain, but that’s where the healing begins. Don’t let insults get you down, live life with joy, and keep singing your song.