Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Orange Duffle Bag Book empowers at risk kids

When Kathy L. Patrick, the founder of the Pulpwood Queens, urges me to look at a book, I instantly obey. Especially when she dyed her hair orange to support this book and its mission! My Orange Duffel Bag, A Journey to Radical Change, by Sam Bracken, offers at risk kids a way to empower themselves and get back on track. I'm honored to interview Sam here. Thank you, Sam!

Tell us about the orange duffel bag and it’s mission to support and empower at risk kids, especially those “aging out” of the foster care system.

The mission of the orange duffel bag foundation is to help at risk kids become self reliant through life plan coaching, training and advocacy.  Our primary focus are kids aging out of foster care because that have not safety net or support system to become self reliant.  Echo Garrett can give you more detail.
Echo: We concentrate on teens and young adults ages 12-24, because not many nonprofits work with older teens and young adults. Young people who have been in foster care have the highest rate of unemployment in the country except for people with disabilities, and 70% of the people in our prisons report having spent time in foster care or homeless shelters as children. We're determined to help break the cycle of despair.

I have to admit that reading the brochure, particularly the stories of some of the grads, who were inspired to reach for the stars--and who succeeded--made me tear up.  How do you get people to change their thinking from I can’t to I will?

We have a 12-week training and coaching program that takes kids through a proven process to help them change their thinking and behavior to start passionately moving toward their goals.  Echo can give you great detail.

Our coaching takes them through each of Sam's 7 Rules for the Road and helps them first tell their story, and then identify their strengths and develop a plan. We also help them learn how to work through roadblocks and barriers rather than giving up; how to connect with safe, caring adults to that they don't give up; and finally, how to give back and be grateful for the people in their lives. By the end of the 12-weeks, we regularly witness remarkable transformations in young people who have endured more than most people can even imagine. They feel loved and safe with us, and their eyes are opened to the fact that they have choices.

I love the four tabs, spiritual, physical , mental and emotional, and the idea of writing in a notebook. I know that words have power. Does it take convincing for these kids to know that, too?      

These wonderful kids are at different levels.  Some kids get it quickly and move immediately in a powerful positive direction others need time to understand and process the new ways of thinking and behaving.  That is why we have the program for 12 weeks with strong support after the graduation of the class with a group of advocates that can help them connect the dots and continue making progress.
Initially, some of the kids are shy. Many of our kids are also way behind in school, because they often get moved within the foster care system. That's why we encourage them to express themselves in the ways that feel comfortable to them. However, they are required to earn a certain number of points by writing in their notebooks and doing the exercises in order to earn the laptop. That's a powerful motivator, and they get really engaged. Our last graduation several of the students produced Powerpoints that moved the attendees to tears. 

How did you feel when Kathy Patrick, the creator and beloved leader of the Pulpwood Queens Book Club, dyed her hair orange in support?

I felt wonderful.  I dyed my hair orange and so did everyone in our family.  Heck, my neighbor Brent dyed his hair orange and he is the CEO of a major company.We were moved by her support and commitment. She's passionate about literacy and saw our book as a powerful link to young people who normally don't read. Since Sam was wrongly in special education until he was 13 and a caring teacher figured out he needed glasses, visuals were really important to him. That's why we had every page of the book designed.

What’s obsessing you now and why?

What keeps me up at night is wondering about the 2 million homeless kids in our country - the 500,000 kids in foster care and the terrible struggles they are having just trying to become self reliant.  Too many of them end up homeless, in prison or lost forever.  You can be smart, hard working, with all the desire in the world and you still need help.  No one reaches their potential completely utterly alone in this world.  Our children that are aging out of foster care are invisible to the world, alone, and often times lost.  We need to do more to reach out, reach across and reach up to help them, one at a time.  It may be messy but it will be worth it.  That's  what saved me and got  me out of very difficult circumstances as a kid and it will help host of kids in trouble today.  A hand full of caring adults changed the trajectory of my life.  If every capable American would just help one kid in their life time we would not have this challenge in our country.

I believe that if more people understood the barriers kids in foster care and homeless teens and young adults face that we could join together and make a big change. These are our kids, and they deserve a hopeful future.

What question didn’t I ask that I should have?

You can learn more about Orange Duffel Bag Foundation at Our goal is to take our program nationwide.  

No comments: