Hamilton County Job and Family Services is celebrating 60 foster care students in a ceremony tonight. The 20th annual Celebration of Dreams will honor graduating students who are or have been in foster care custody. The students are graduating from Cincinnati Public Schools around the county this year.
According to Job and Family Services, Hamilton County is seeing a spike in foster care students crossing the graduation stage. The county's average graduation rate for students in foster care is around 40.
Kennedy is one of 60 young people being recognized for overcoming obstacles and graduating high school. She says reflecting on this accomplishment is special because family support is usually what keeps students going.
"It's just beautiful and I'm just happy. I'm really happy," she says. "That even through everything we still pulled it through. We still made it here today." She juggled working two jobs while attending Dater High School.
The event will also acknowledge people that supported students as they overcame obstacles including mentors, caseworkers and court-appointed special advocates.
Kennedy will have her county worker Tammy Harrison at her side. She says Harrison has been the biggest part of her life since she met her three years ago. "Just having her by my side, I know everything will be okay, it will go through smoothly," she says. "She'll take a whole bunch of pictures and everyone will know. She loves to brag."
"Really if you dedicate yourself and you help dedicate folks and resources to our kids they'll have success," says Director of Job and Family Services Moira Weir.
Kennedy has been in and out of foster care due to her father passing away and her mother's struggle with mental health.
She says she is looking forward to being around other students and the people that supported them. "There was a light in every single one of the people that are going to be attending the event. There was a light that made them keep going," she says.
She plans to pursue a career in military nursing after graduating from the University of Cincinnati, in honor of her father who was a Vietnam War veteran.