Have Museum, Will Travel: My First Time Out of Cali

Have Museum, Will Travel: A Foster’s First Time Out of Cali

By Ricardo Ramirez, California Youth Connection member, Foster Youth Museum docent, Playmaker Rookie of the Year 2016

ricardo middle

My name is Ricardo and I am a docent for the Foster Youth Museum and our exhibit in Arkansas.

This is my first trip ever outside of California and my first time flying. So far I am blown away with every aspect! I am proud to be a part of this team and to help bring the Foster Youth Museum to Arkansas.

I strongly believe Foster Youth Museum helps to tell an untold story about the types of problems and experiences that are all too common in the foster care system but unknown to those on the outside. It’s been a long two days building the stands and setting up the art and artifacts donated by the youth who have been through “the system.” It has given me a new appreciation for the Museum and the youth who work hard to make their stories known. I am grateful to be a part of such an awesome team and to be able to travel—something some youth never get to do.

ricardo interview

At the time of this blog being typed I am as tired (and as happy) as a kid who’s been playing on the playground all day–we started the day with breakfast put the finishing touches on our Museum, visited the famous Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville and spent hours taking in the awesome art collection. We finished off with a trip to The Hive for dinner and checked out the art at the hotel/museum in the same building–what an unexpected adventure to eat with a five foot penguin sitting at our table!

ricardo museum

Arkansas has truly been an enjoyable first time out of Cali despite it being a working trip. Now I wait for tomorrow and our grand opening/reception. I’ve drawn the early shift so I’ll be there at 9 a.m. I’m excited to see the turnout and engage with the community. With that being said, it’s time to get some much needed rest for tomorrow’s big day.

Thanks to everyone who is supporting us and stay connected to our journey and work opening up hearts and minds about foster youths’ lives on Facebook and Twitter. Search for our hashtag #FYMuseum

ricardo penguin

No More Sleepwalking: Waking Up

No More Sleepwalking: Waking Up

By Bethanea Goudea, YTP Trainer (cohort 2016), Foster Youth Museum Docent

Bethanea professional

Until recently, hypersomniac was a great way to describe my world.  The hopes I had for my future involving happiness, stability, love and acceptance were so dreamlike and intangible–until now. They seemed so far from me, and while my life seemed to be wasting away (in this far away world), I found a missing piece of my life while being awake.

That missing piece was the Y.O.U.T.H Training Project (YTP).  The most surprising part is that this project is helping to heal all of my innermost wounds externally. YTP has provided many outlets for me to reveal my innermost identities.  I never imagined it being okay to be who I truly am, with ALL of my stories and truths —  I just never thought I could feel this happy, valued and accepted. I did not believe it possible– I had only dreamed of it. Outlets like working with the Foster Youth Museum, giving trainings to child welfare professionals, and traveling out of state are part of my reality now. I thought that being happy wouldn’t happen until I was married with children and had an intact family of my own, but that has all changed with YTP.
Now I enjoy waking up.  I feel hopeful, encouraged, and excited for my future since my present is so lit.  Setting up the Foster Youth Museum today put me in the company of stories of people like myself.  The stories are in plain site, no masks, no hiding.  Instead, foster youth truths are shining forward.   Today I helped set up, display and make a silence become heard.  My work with Foster Youth Museum opened a door to the dozens of youth represented in the exhibition and it also opened the door to my story as well.  Now I know I will experience happiness, love, and acceptance in the future because I feel it in abundance now. Overall, I am so overwhelmed with emotions, blessings and possibilities–I feel like it is a requirement to share this positivity with everyone I encounter .

Bethanea at FYM AR Set Up

Robots, Fosters and Our Trip to the South…

Robots, Fosters and Our Trip to the South…

robot pic

Team Fusion Members and their Robot – competitors at the Western Regional Robot Competition

By Jamie Lee Evans

This past weekend I went to a regional competition of youth robot makers. The youth ranged in age from 12 years old to high school seniors and designed, built and programmed little robots to do specific tasks in a tournament.  I am not a robot maker, and while I was impressed by creation of essentially computer machines from parts that could handle tasks with and without being “driven” (tasks included picking up blocks, climbing metal hills and suspending from bars)–what really got me were the hundreds of parents, siblings, cousins, uncles, friends and neighbors who came from as far as Montana to cheer on the young robot creators. I had the opportunity to talk to moms and dads who were there supporting their kids. I watched siblings climb bleachers to watch the robots battle it out. And most exciting was the chance I had to speak with the young robot team members themselves. These youth were deeply impressive. They told me all about how they shared leadership on their teams, what their design process was like, how they fundraised, governed, recruited, and elevated less experienced, but nonetheless, interested youth. They had journals detailing their team’s work; poster presentations of their mission statements and connection to community; and shout outs to their mentors, funders and supporters.

The youth were bright, articulate and eager to talk. I was blown away by their ability to
reflect about ego-less co-design; the importance of parent allies, mentors and coaches; and how the experience of the robot competition has enhanced their success in school and sense of self. Whenever I attend events where I witness youth achieving success, I am acutely aware of what it takes for their accomplishments…and it always
involves family and other support. This was no different.

As Ricardo, Miguel, Bethanea, Kevin, Jeanie, Ray and I begin our journey to
Arkansas to set up and show Foster Youth Museum’s Lost Childhoods exhibition, I
am mindful of how foster youth leaders make community, create a sense of family and gather allies. We are a multi-cultural and diverse crew, ages 20 to 51, queer, straight, foster, adopted, non-foster, urban, rural. And we belong together. Our youth team has made sacrifices to spend eight days on this journey. They have done homework in advance, given up shifts in their regular jobs and solicited support from their supporters and friends to get them to airports, pack and otherwise prepare for this trip. We are each committed to telling the stories of foster youth, and portraying those stories with dignity, respect and honor.

We aren’t traveling with parents, neighbors and friends but we will be received
by people who are glad we are coming…who invited us with excitement and have been looking forward to our arrival for months. For fosters, this is a not exactly a normal thing, and boy is it welcome! We are traveling seven deep, have the heart of our foster sisters and brothers with us, and like the young robot makers, we have the leadership, vibrance and energy of our smart youth docent team. The FYM Team probably includes a youth who could build a robot from scratch, but especially includes the most resilient and gifted storytellers. There won’t be bleachers set up to watch our success in Fayetteville, Arkansas, but there will be crowds that gather over our three day show and folks that come just to hear the young people talk about what life is like for the hundreds of thousands of young people in care in the United States. We will join together with former foster youth from Arkansas who will bring items for a Pop Up Museum on foster youth lives and I am especially looking forward to discovering our differences and similarities.

Ever since we booked this show, people said to me, why the South for your first big out of state show? I said, why not?
We look forward to what we can bring to Arkansas and are eager to take in what Arkansas will bring to us.

FYM Ark Travel PicFoster Youth Museum staff (Jamie and Jeanie) midway to Arkansas with Ricardo, Kevin, Bethanea and Miguel (Ray our amazing curator, will meet us in Oklahoma)…