With faces of the best and brightest lining the walls, at the Indiana Farm Bureau Football Center, it’s usually the stories of football players that captivate and inspire.
But not on Monday night.
On Monday night, it was the stories of kids – kids who overcame unimaginable circumstances to graduate from high school and are now, despite all odds, headed to college.
Kids like Christopher, who graduated from Roncalli and is headed to Indiana University to study business.
“Sometimes stuff gets hard, but you’ve got to just kind of roll with the punches. You can be sad about stuff, but that doesn’t really help the situation,” he said. “Always just keep a smile on your face. Keep going through it.”
Kristina graduated from Franklin Central.
“Just seeing the people I know mess up kind of made me not want to be a mess up,” she said. “If you have people in your life that are bad, just kick them out.”
She’s going to Ball State in the fall to study dental hygiene because she loves seeing people smile.
But it was seeing the smiles on these kids’ faces that brought people together to celebrate them on Monday night.
“Just being able to talk to the graduates and meeting the foster parents that have taken them in over the years,” said Steve Fugate with Cargo Services. “When you’re giving to other people, it comes back to you. And that’s exactly what this does.”
“These kids are from a unit called Collaborative Care, which means they’ve never had that permanent foster home placement,” said Stacy Lozer with DCS. “For these kids, graduating high school is a monumental accomplishment. They have had about every obstacle placed in front of them – but yet, they’ve overcome.”
One by one, they walked across the stage at a place built on overcoming.
“We’re in this beautiful facility and usually, it’s all about sports here,” said former Colts defensive lineman Daniel Muir. “It’s all about the adversity, the perseverance all these great men went through. And that’s what we usually hear. But I’ll let you in on a little secret. We don’t know adversity and perseverance – you do. You guys do.”
They shook hands and collected gifts from representatives of the Colts, Cargo Services, the State of Indiana, and Indiana Connected by 25.
Inspired by the stories he read, Governor Eric Holcomb came to show his support.
“I have not just high expectations for you, but I have a high level of confidence because of what you’ve persevered through,” he said. “You are going to make our state so special by your contribution. You see this room that believes in you and has every step of the way. But I want you to know, we’re going to be keeping track of your progress because we’re counting on you. You are truly Indiana’s best and brightest.”
They also heard from Legend, who the Colts hosted at the first open house, and is now going into her junior year at Indiana Wesleyan University.
She offered the graduates some practical advice.
“If at first you don’t succeed, it’s ok to cry.”
She offered them some inspiration.
“Now is your time in life to be selfish. Go to the school of your dreams and study what sets your heart on fire.”
And she offered them some motivation.
“Sometimes, it feels as though it’s too much to bear. But you’ve done it before. And you will do it now. And you will do it in the future. Because you are strong and you wouldn’t be here now if that wasn’t true.”
These kids aren’t ill prepared for life. These kids are better prepared for life. They’ve overcome more adversity in their young lives than most people will face in a lifetime. They’ve risen above it. And they continue to do so every day.
With the help of those around them, these kids changed their lives. Now, they’re going to change the world.
Nothing is going to stop them.
Just like the men whose photos line the walls, they’re going to make their mark, leave their name, and achieve their dreams.
Because that’s what winners do.
And no matter where they go and what they do next, these kids are already winners.
Senior photos courtesy of Lindy Scott: http://www.lindyscott.com.