Local high school teacher learns new lessons from foster student

Keanna was in Blackwell’s class for only a short time.

In the last year of her 40-year teaching career, Karen Blackwell shares what a Foster VC Kids student taught her and encourages other community members to help at-risk youth.

Karen Blackwell has dedicated 40 years of her life to teaching middle school and high school students. For the last 25 years she taught at Ventura High School where, in August 2017, she first met Keanna, a senior in her English class. As a high school English teacher, Blackwell explained that sometimes her students would share their personal situations through their writing assignments. It was through her student’s writing that Blackwell learned about the challenges faced by some of the foster youth in her class.

Keanna wrote what her definition of family is: “A family is not defined by the relation of blood, but by the connection in heart.” Blackwell’s reaction to her student’s profound quote, “That gives me chills. Keanna has so much talent and ability. With the right support and opportunities, she can do a lot.”

Keanna was in Blackwell’s class only for a short time before the youth was placed in a new foster home in another city. When that placement didn’t work out, Keanna returned to Ventura and to Ventura High School. Upon her return, Keanna was encouraged by her friends to audition for the school talent show – something she was very shy about doing. Blackwell was the talent show organizer and recalls Keanna’s hesitant yet stunning audition. “I cried at her talent,” shared Blackwell. “Keanna is completely self-taught on how to play the piano, and she played beautifully with a song she composed herself. It was absolutely wonderful.”

Through her connection with Keanna and others, Blackwell says she learned personally how foster youth “have more challenges than other kids who live in a loving, nurturing environment. The cards are stacked against them.” Yet, Blackwell adds, “I’m impressed by how well they do despite these challenges. They are resilient.”

Blackwell believes it’s important for all children, especially foster youth, to explore and develop what they’re good at doing. “Every kid has a special talent and needs an opportunity to try something,” said Blackwell. She encourages community members to step up and provide youth with music or art lessons, sports activities or other extracurriculars.

Ventura County Children and Family Services’ Foster VC Kids works with community members and partners to ensure children have a safe and stable home environment while strengthening the families around them, so the youth feel supported, encouraged and loved.

Jaci Johnson, Program Coordinator/Resource Family Recruitment, Development & Support for Ventura County Children and Family Services’ Foster VC Kids says, “Karen’s story is a testament to how vital it is for our at-risk youth to have guidance, encouragement and a safe, stable adult in their life – both at home and at school. And, we have an opportunity to be inspired by the resiliency of these amazing youth.”

Learn more about becoming a resource parent or a mentor to let a foster child know there are people in our community who believe in them, visit FosterVCKids.org.

Recognized as a best practice leader statewide in the family recruitment and support component of child welfare, Foster VC Kids provides resource families with ongoing support services, trauma-informed training, and mentorship to enhance the safety, permanency and well-being of Ventura County’s youth and families. Learn how Foster VC Kids is making a difference throughout Ventura County, www.fostervckids.org.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email