Over her three years in foster care, Helene lived in over 22 placements. “It gets complicated, trying to explain that my high school was not a regular high school, but in fact, one for foster youth and youth in need of mental health support,” she says.
Helene is now a junior at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where she is a double major in Psychology and Nursing. This summer, she will be working as a camp counselor at the Discovery Museum in Chattanooga, interacting with kids living with a variety of physical and mental challenges. Helene hopes to eventually become a peer mentor for students on the autism spectrum.
“The long-term goals I constantly remind myself of are: get a doctorate in nursing, become a travel nurse, create my own nonprofit healthcare practice, and adopt children of my own,” she says. Helene is passionate about creating placements and institutions that allow foster youth to still be fully connected with the outside world — “they should not feel punished and isolated, but included and seen.”
Outside of school, Helene works in childcare, volunteers twice a week at a women’s shelter, and acts as an emergency responder for the American Red Cross. She spends the rest of her free time hiking and playing with her dog.