I Hope I can Pay it Forward

Cortez Carey

One of six children born to his biological mother, Cortez Carey entered the foster care system at birth. He was one of many in his extended family that entered the foster care sytem at some point in their lives. Although he was adopted at age 6, he re-entered foster care at age 11 when the adoption failed.

As a foster child, Cortez had a tremendous imagination and high aspirations, but by middle school he began a downhill slide. He had lost sight of his dreams and had no future goals or plans. Moving from house to house, group home to group home, and school district to school district left Cortez feeling tired and frustrated. The lack of stability in his home and school life became an expectation and a normal part of everyday living. However, Cortez wasn't defeated. Through his relationship with Christ, he grew stronger. His aspirations returned and he desired to be someone that would make a difference in his own life, as well as others.

As he neared the age of transitioning out of the foster care system, Cortez became involved with an independent living program that provided him with support as he grew into adulthood. With a laptop he received through Family Services' Educational Assistance Initiative and support from staff in the agency's Reaching Out to Create Success program, Cortez earned his degree from the Community College of Allegheny County and then matriculated to Clarion University ofPennsylvania.

In May of of 2014, Cortez participated in a discussion at the White House with more than sixty former foster youth aimed at creating policies to improve outcomes for America's foster children. In December of 2014, Cortez received his Bachelor's Degree from Clarion University of Pennsylvania.

Today, Cortez is employed with the Allegheny County Department of Human Services as an Educational Liaison. He is also a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity and Pittsburgh Cares. In an interview he gave to Three Rivers Youth, Cortez said that "I hope that I can pay it forward, because I've been helped so much."

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