Representative spends day with Road to Success students
Port St. Lucie – Not every politician is lucky enough to see the benefits of her own work – the fruition of long nights negotiating, months in committee, hours on the floor.
For a few short hours Tuesday morning, Rep. Gayle Harrell, R-Port St. Lucie, got to experience it in person.
Harrell, who helped create legislation to give emancipation-type rights to responsible teenagers in foster care, spent the morning with United for Families and a 17-year-old girl in the non-profit organization’s Subsidized Independent Living program.
The girl, a high-school senior, has her own apartment, recently bought her own car and maintains a 3.7 GPA. She was an ideal candidate for the program, which gives early, supervised, independence to young people over the age of 16 when deemed an asset to the minor’s transition out of foster care and into adulthood.
Rep. Harrell spent some time with the minor Tuesday as part of a ride-along experiment to familiarize her with the day-to-day functions of United for Families’ Road to Success program. The program, of which Subsidized Independent Living is a part, prepares teenagers and young adults for independence and life outside foster care.
Harrell was the first guest in what United for Families hopes will become a regular series of educational ride-alongs. She told the girl about the legislative Page and Messenger program and gave her a business card.
“It was a very rewarding to see firsthand the impact the Road to Success program is in the life of one of our children who has been in foster care,” Harrell said. “I know that she is going to be successful and wish her the very best. The program is making a real difference in the lives of these very vulnerable young people.”
Harrell also joined United for Families for a critical staffing – the last meeting between client and personnel before the young person turns 18 and launches into independence and the next phase of the Road to Success program.
That was followed by lunch at Applebees with still more young people.
“One of the things that really struck me is that we did this on Election Day,” said Josie Kirchner, supervisor of the Road to Success program. “She had a lot of calls and people running for office who needed her attention, but she decided our young people were important enough to take a few hours out of her day.”
Kirchner also remarked on the easy rapport between Harrell and her young audience.
“They were all very comfortable expressing themselves,” she said. “I think that’s a credit to the Representative.”
United for Families is responsible for every known abused or neglected child and his or her family in St. Lucie, Martin, Indian River and Okeechobee counties. Its mission is to break the cycle of child abuse through a diverse network of community partners and innovative services.
For more information about the Road to Success program, visit www.uff.us.
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