Duffle Bag Project Honors Youth in Foster Care

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Thursday May 17, 2012

After watching director Bess O’Brien’s documentary Ask Us Who We Are about Vermont’s foster care system, South Burlington High School (SBHS) senior Megan Henry felt a call to action.  “Teenagers are capable of doing amazing things,” noted Ms. Henry, “and I think that the students at South Burlington High School have shown that over the years—especially this year.”

Reflecting the truth of Ms. Henry’s words, SBHS students in Key Club and PACT have launched The Duffle Bag Project, an initiative to honor the children and teenagers in Vermont’s foster care system by collecting new and gently used duffle bags for those youth.

The idea emerged from SBHS’s annual Dialogue Night, where the documentary was shown with discussion following.  Part of that discussion, recalled Ms. Henry, was of “a fifteen-year-old girl who showed up at her foster parents’ house with two garbage bags full of her stuff.  It’s hard enough to be a teenager without having to add carrying around your belongings in trash bags.”

This project “raises awareness of the challenges many children and teens face,” noted SBHS junior Emily Camardo, a Key Club officer.  “It is important for the community to show support towards children and teens in foster care.  Because this project is led by teenagers, children in foster care are receiving support from their peer group, which can increase their sense of belonging in a social environment.”

According to Jodie Clarke of the Northeastern Family Institute, over 1,000  children and teenagers are in Vermont’s Foster Care System.  “I am so excited about this project,” Ms. Clarke stated.  “It’s not every day that I run into teenagers that are so willing to care and be empathic to a need that not many people think about.” 

SOURCE: Susie Merrick, Contributor