Athlete speaks about foster care

Categories:  Opinions    Sports
Wednesday, February 14th, 2018 at 6:45 PM

As the Winter Olympics continue, a plethora of our media outlets have been saturated with content regarding the various athlete stories and journeys. The purpose of this exclusive look into their lives is to inspire us average “Joes” on the couch that such dreams are possible, even for those who come from humble beginnings. 

Simone Biles is a widely recognizable U.S. athlete most known for becoming the first U.S. gymnast to ever win four Olympic gold medals. Recently, Biles has spoken out about her life in respect to being a part of the foster care system and her path to the Olympics. In addition, Biles touched heavily on the subject of opportunity and an “education revolution,” which fosters the idea that all children, regardless of their background, should have the resources to learn. 

She candidly discussed her upbringing by stating: “My road to success began the day my grandfather and his wife officially adopted my sister and me. My birth mother suffered from drug addiction, and when I was just three years old, my siblings and I were removed from her custody. From there, we bounced around until I was six and my grandparents made the brave move to adopt us. Although I was young when my foster care ordeal began, I remember how it felt to be passed off and overlooked. Like nobody knew me or wanted to know me. Like my talents didn’t count, and my voice didn’t matter.” 

Furthermore, Biles stated she wants to be an advocate for the 400,000 children and youth in the foster care system as she recognizes that they are a vulnerable population often overlooked and pushed aside in our society. However, Biles is not only talking the talk, she’s actually setting up a scholarship fund at University of the People intended for foster kids and other individuals, which would aid in covering application and assessment fees. 

On the scholarship, Biles stated: “Our circumstances shouldn’t define us or keep us from our goals, especially if that goal is higher education. My hope is that I can help other foster care children realize that goal in the months and years ahead.”

I find Biles’ blatant vulnerability and proper use of her elite social status empowering. Many times, those who we elevate in the media and those we pick as our role models do not use their power appropriately, not realizing their true influence they have on our communities at large. In addition, it is important as an ever-consuming capitalist country to look past material goods and lackluster titles that have a tendency to overshadow our intrinsic values and worth. Yet, our social and political influencers play a role in shaping our youth’s minds and ultimately their actions, which impacts what this country transforms into in the near future. 

Having effective public figures openly admit the varying gaps in our system not only aids in reform, but promotes connectivity among those watching the Olympics on the couch and those athletes in the arena. 

JoAllie Paluchak can be reached at voices.edinboro@gmail.com.

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