Thursday, August 30, 2012

Giving Back.

Bob Ley,  is a hero of mine. Most people know Bob Ley as the first sportscaster at ESPN, Sport Center but I know him as a supporter of changing young people's lives. Bob Ley has been involved in a local non-profit that has helped thousand of people who may have been in foster care, involved juvenile justice system, people who are deaf, low income and much more. Bob Ley serves as an example of truly given back to the community by getting involved

Sixto Cancel, Bob Ley
Bob Ley, Sixto Cancel 
Bob Ley, Sixto Cancel 
Bob Ley, Sixto Cancel 

Congressman Jim Himes and Sixto Cancel 
People have the power to empower and motivate others. I remember walking on Capital Hill for the first time. I wanted to meet with Congressman Himes to ask him to co-sponsor a bill. I was only 18 but he sat there and listen to me. The next morning I received the news that he had co-sponsored the bill. It was then that I realized that there is a voice in me and if I developed that voice I can help many people who are in need.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Saying Hi

Sixto Cancel and Russel Simmons 
You never know who you are walking next to. A lot of my friends always tell me that it is weird that I say hi to strangers. I believe that the world would be happier if everyone would simply smile at strangers and say hi, good day or God Bless. One day I happen to be walking next to Revered Russel Simmons. I said hi before I even was able to recognize who he was. I continue to walk with him for about five minutes until when I realized who I was talking to. It pays off to be nice!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Superheros from Every State Gather at the Child Welfare, Education and the Courts: A Collaboration to Strengthen Educational Successes of Children and Youth in Foster Care

Kevin Brown, Cherie Olivis, Kayla Vankyke
Taffy Compain, Josh Grubb, Sixto Cancel
Heather Nicole
I recently took part in a groundbreaking conference. I am highly honored and appreciative to have been a part of it. I believe it is the beginning of a movement toward improving the educational outcomes of all foster children and foster youth.  

Josh Grubb, Cherie Olivis, Sectary Sebelius,
Kayla Vankyke, Sixto Cancel 
Secretary of Health and Human Services, Kathleen Sebelius took the stage last Thursday morning to open up the Child Welfare, Education and the Courts: A Collaboration to Strengthen Successes of Children and Youth in Foster Care. This historic gathering of administrators from Child Welfare, Department of Education, as well as, various judges and other administrators came together to improve educational outcome and promote educational stability for children in foster care. This conference is one of, if not, the most significant conference I have ever attended. Every state in the United States and Puerto Rico were represented. All participants left with an action plan, which consisted of both short and long term goals. I was inspired by everyone’s genuine effort to try to meet the challenge of improving educational outcomes. 

Heather Nicole , Cherie Olivis, Commissioner Bryan Samuels, Sixto Cancel
Upon the opening of the plenary, I found the attendees to be extremely eager and enthusiastic in discussion. In fact, facilitators had to ask us to clear the room at lunch time, after workshops concluded. Needless to say, despite hunger everyone wished to continue discussions. Surprisingly, as the day neared its end, administrators continued the discussions in any available location. Some even continued their conversations on the steps of the building, the lobby, local restaurants and other unusual locations. No matter where I went, I was surrounded by other people conversing about the Fostering Connection Act. It was moving. The gathering ended with a powerful presentation from two former foster youths that utterly blew me away. It evoked emotion in every heart in the room. 

Although every department had their own set of priorities, I was glad to see the issue of education for foster youth at the forefront of discussion. Honestly, I cannot express my gratitude for having been included in such a historical event. Unfortunately, I cannot name all in attendance, but officials such as, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius Commissioner Bryan Samuels, NFL Player Myron Rolle, Secretary Sheldon, Taffy Compain, Annie Blackledge, Lupa were among those I was honored to have met.

I consider anyone who works to improve foster care to be a hero. So many times we wait for a miracle to fix the system. I am relieved that finally, we have realized we are the heroes that will tackle these issues. I thank all who attended, as well as everyone who developed action plans. I also thank you all in advance for completing your action plans, which will in turn afford our children and youth in foster care an opportunity to receive a quality education.

Thank you.
P.S – Please  feel free to comment or questions!
Sixto M. Cancel

Writer : Sixto M. Cancel
Editor: Brooke Drumgole

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Silent Voices

Before sharing this journey I have embarked on with you all, you first have to understand my history and how I arrived at this point. I consider myself to be an intelligent, talented and confident individual; however, it has been a long process. My upbringing was highly unconventional. One might even compare it to a fictional movie. Unfortunately, I never had the pleasure to rewind, pause or fast forward my reality. Nevertheless, each event in my childhood was a lesson that gave me strength and endurance.
I have not always desired to attend a university. I just simply did not have the time to focus on such an idea. It was not because I was preoccupied with childhood joys, like playing outside, sleepovers, or learning a new sport. That satisfaction was never afforded to me. I had a one-track mind, survival.
I remember the first time I entertained the thought of attending a university. My reasoning would probably be considered atypical. For me, I saw it as my escape. It was my way out. I was in an earthly hell and college was my heaven. Every negative, painful and abusive (physical, mental and emotional) event I experienced was fuel to my engine on my passage to refuge. I admit, the comparison may seem a bit dramatic, but I assure you it is an adequate description.
I was in an emotionally, physically and mentally exhausting and abusive place. My home life was horrifying. The woman who adopted me was not who she appeared to be. She received praises in our community and newspapers for adopting four children. They knew her differently than I did. She was a beautiful humanitarian in the community, but in our home, she was everything but beautiful.
In my time spent in her home, she made it her daily goal to teach me how worthless she felt I was. It was made clear that I was merely a check in her pocket and as a black male, I was beneath her. I was severely beaten and excluded from the family. She instilled her racist teachings in me and my non-black siblings. I, as a black man, was taught that my kind was the worst kind. I was the black sheep. I remember a lot of painful experiences in that home. Some scarred me, and others made me much stronger.
Every morning I had to leave the house a few hours after sunup. I was only allowed in the home after sundown. The weather did not matter. Rain, sleet or snow, I wasn’t to set foot in the house until it was dark outside. My adoptive mother didn’t care where I went, what I did or if I ate. I would sit on the front porch and wait for night to fall and then I would hear the door unlock. I would wait five minutes and then proceed upstairs into the attic where my room was.
Things got really bad. The abuse and maltreatment became routine. I had taken all that a child could bear.
I was tired of being homeless during the day, the beatings and most of all feeling like I was not worth anything. I could not wait for the first day of my eighth grade year in school. It was a date that lingered in my mind all day and every day until its arrival. I had a mission. I would return to the foster care system. I needed to find someone who would not just hear me, but take heed to what I was saying. It was time to tell. I knew from previous years of school that there was a guidance counselor/ social worker accessible to students. The thought of landing in the same situation or worse worried me. I was living in fear, but I knew it was possible to have better. I was not afraid of the unknown anymore. I tried to look forward to it.
I didn’t know that this was the beginning of a very long journey to re-enter the child welfare system.

Lesson 1: Self Motivation

It was imperative that I gained the ability to motivate myself, because I truly was all I had. There was no other force driving me. I became self driven.

Articulation and eloquence were skills I had to master. During the summer of eighth grade, I found my voice. I understood that abuse was not normal, and I deserved better. My biggest tasks were figuring out what I wanted and how to get it. Choosing to leave my adoptive home forced me to doubt and question things. I asked myself was there a home and family that could love me? Would I end up in a worse situation? Will I see my adoptive siblings again? How could I leave what and who I know behind? Through my journey, I found answers.

Not every foster home is abusive or prejudicial. In fact, I know there are many loving and accepting homes for our youth. These homes can be stable, educational and nurturing environments. I encourage foster parents and social workers to challenge our children. They need help support; most importantly, they need to be heard. Unfortunately, a child’s voice is often lost. I cannot stress enough how significant it is for a child to be able to articulate their needs, wants and concerns. It is equally important that we listen.

Writer : Sixto M. Cancel
Editor: Brooke Drumgole

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Fostering Success is Possible for "Foster Children"

There are currently 500,000 youth in foster care, each with a different story to tell. Some have the ability and opportunity to conquer harsh trials and move on to be successful. Others may not be so privileged, lucky or in the position to easily overcome adversity. Although, what we refer to as luck or fortune may play a role in the lives of those in foster care, the most significant role is that of the State Foster Care System. It is responsible for facilitating vital programs that provide opportunities to the children and teens to ensure their transition to foster care.
I know firsthand the challenges a child growing up in foster care may face. At 11 months old, I was whisked away into the system, where I experienced and overcame many obstacles. Many of which were under very harsh and unforgiving conditions. In spite of my childhood, I am now a freshman at Virginia Commonwealth University. According to the Midwest Study, only 3% of foster youth receive their Bachelors degree.
This is the 1st blog that will accompany my four year documentary, “Fostering Success.” I will submit videos and pictures, as well as, other materials appropriate and relevant to achieving a broader understanding of this journey and all it encompasses. In this documentary, I hope to expose the challenges and benefits of being in the system. There are many things I inquire about. Through this project, I hope to provide answers to questions such as stated: What has helped me prepare for my transition to adulthood and college? What I lacked in my preparation to transition into adulthood and college? What services worked and which didn’t?
I can only hope you will take this journey with me, and together we can attain a better understanding and insight on how a child, as product of the system, experiences life, education and success.

Writer : Sixto M. Cancel
Editor: Brooke Drumgole

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