Good afternoon ladies and gentlemen. My name is Alexis Hernandez and I am a senior at Bayshore High school in Bradenton. Two and a half years ago, my brother, two sisters and I were removed from our home and put in state care. My mother had a pretty serious drug addiction that made it pretty hard for her to care for us and things got so bad that Child Protective Services had to take us. At first I didn’t think that being separated from my mom would make a difference to me – I felt ok – I was busy in school, and the truth is, I was hardly ever home anyways. I kept myself busy in a club at school called TSA – or Technology Student Association. I spent most of my time actively participating in events, conferences and projects. But by the end of my freshmen year, when I looked back at my grades for the year, I saw how that whole event with my mom took a toll on my grades. I went from an A/B student to a C, D, and F student in one semester. I couldn’t believe how hard it hit me to be separated from my mom.
So, in my sophomore year, I started as a D and F student and eventually brought those grades up to C’s, then B’s and A’s again. But even now, those low grades in my first year of high school have had a negative effect on my overall GPA. I am happy to say that despite all that, I will graduate this year – hopefully with a 3.5 GPA.
In spite of all the challenges, we are lucky – because my older sister, who, at the time was 17 when we were taken away from our mom, was able to become our “caregiver” so we never had to be separated or live in a foster home, like lots of other kids. So, the four of us live together in a house and even though we don’t have a mom to take care of us, we are lucky to be together.
I am also lucky because a door was open for me through the Guardian ad Litem Program. My Guardian ad litem volunteer is Grace Jacobsen and she helped see all the good things I had left in my life, like my brother and sisters and school and other opportunities I had. She helped me focus on setting goals. She told me to keep myself active in TSA and keep up my grades. I would like to thank my Guardian, Grace Jacobson, for her support. She treats us like her family. She takes us out to dinner sometimes and helps with little things like getting my class pictures and even summer camp for Ivan. It’s nice that someone cares about us and looks out for us. My family and I are truly thankful for you being part of our lives.
And the Children’s Guardian Fund has helped us in so many ways. They helped pay for my sister Stephanie’s 15 birthday celebration, or quinceanera. They also paid my trip to Washington D.C. to compete in the National TSA conference where I placed 4th out of 250 teams across the nation! [pause for applause!] It was my dream since being in middle school to compete at this level and Children’s Guardian Fund gave me that opportunity.
Right now, my older sister Yessi and I are part of the driver’s education program that Children’s Guardian Fund sponsors. It’s a 25-hour driver’s education course and they pay the fees for us to get our driver’s license. Right now, my sister has to take the bus to work and we have to ride the bus to go to everywhere – to the doctor or to go grocery shopping or to school – everywhere. We spend a lot of time standing at bus stops. Once we have our driver’s licenses, then we will work towards getting a car.
It’s not easy for us to live on our own without parents. But we are thankful that so many people have stepped in to help us out. So, I’d like to encourage you to support the Children’ Guardian Fund and the Guardian ad Litem Program. Without these programs, kids and teens who are in situations like ours could not accomplish their dreams and goals as I have done through them. Thank you for believing in kids like me.