After my son graduated high school and left home to attend the University of Florida, I found a transformative use for my empty nest in the Children’s Home Society of Florida’s Senate Page Program.
Kids from all over the state travel up to Tallahassee during the legislative session to gain understanding and experience in advocacy. As a host, my main goal is encourage these teens toward future success in continued education by giving them the tools to really appreciate their own potential.
This is a way to empower kids to move up. They may not know what they want to do or even what’s out there, but if you can encourage even one or two kids to pursue a college education or career path, then you have the opportunity to change their lives.
Pages don’t just participate in Florida’s Legislative Session — they learn about public speaking and the impact of law makers on the state’s systems of care.
I have had the privilege of hosting 6 kids in the past 4 years. Most of the teens I’ve welcomed into my home are students from CHS’ Community Partnership School in Orlando. Evans Community Partnership School is the flagship school for an innovative model uniting education, community, wellness and care.
These teens are more than students; they are leaders in a new way of learning. In a school previously known for violence, homelessness and failure — this model has transformed their Central Florida neighborhood by giving them the resources to do more than survive. It’s given them a chance to succeed. Community Partnership Schools are on the docket this year as a legislative priority wherein CHS leaders are encouraging legislators to fund the school’s successes for $2.9 million. And these students want to advocate for others to gain the support they have seen through CHS.
Encouraging success in students is dear to me perhaps because my own son fought through severe learning disabilities. His future was uncertain at day one when he was born at just 2lbs. 10 ounces. He needed a shunt in his heart and we were told he may develop cerebral palsy. When he was just an infant, our family enrolled in CHS’ Early Steps Program. It was their care and counseling that helped my son on the path to good health, tremendous success and even a major university.
I’d like to encourage others to get involved and host Senate Pages.
It’s not hard or scary. These are kids that truly want to go to college, they just need a little support to follow a dream. We’ve taught kids how to iron and improve some life skills, but mostly we just talk about where they want to go in life. We tour colleges and talk to professionals in their hopeful field. This experience can be whatever you make it – but it is always worth it.
To host a Senate Page for one week, here’s what you need:
- A spare bedroom and bath area.
- A little extra time in the morning to drive them and make sure their comfortable at their Capitol appointments.
- A little extra time in the evening to pick them up.
- An open heart to encourage their interests and dreams.
I believe in the potential of Florida’s kids. I have firsthand evidence that CHS can change their lives and we need more host families to help achieve that. Contact your local CHS office for more information.