The Florida Guardian ad Litem (GAL) Foundation has honored three high-achieving youth in the state foster care system for their success against tremendous odds.
It’s the second year the Foundation has presented its Triumph Awards to young people represented by the Guardian ad Litem Program in the state dependency courts. Alyssa Adams, Serenity Binder and Shaelyn Alexis took first, second and third place, respectively, and received scholarship money and laptop computers. Other youths nominated by GAL programs statewide won $100 gift cards.
Eighteen-year-old Alyssa Adams spent years in foster care but graduated high school at 16. Now she has an A average at Florida Gateway College, works part-time and plans to attend Florida State University to become a social worker. She lives in O’Brien with her adoptive family, Wanda and Gary Adams, and their daughters. Her dream is to create a home for children in foster care who want to experience normalcy the way she did.
Serenity Binder, 20, also spent years in foster care. She has beaten physical paralysis and a series of surgeries, learned to walk again and joined her high school track team. She’s now a mentor and advocate for other youth at the Florida Baptist Children’s Home where she once lived, and before a Congressional subcommittee. David and Valerie Binder adopted Serenity last year. She attends Tallahassee Community College and has a full-time job.
Despite having been moved many times throughout her childhood, Shaelyn Alexis, 18, directed her own studies and her sister Jaelyn’s through the Florida Virtual School. She intends to go to college and become a veterinarian. In July, after living in a Southwest Florida foster home, Shaelyn and her sister were reunited with their mother, Deborah Dom, and their brothers, whom they hadn’t seen in more than a decade.
The three finalists were honored Friday at a virtual ceremony with a statewide audience. Their scholarships and laptops were generously sponsored by the Guardian Trust Foundation, the Florida Blue Foundation and Sunshine Health, said Florida GAL Foundation CEO Sonia Valladares.
“It’s an amazing opportunity, especially during these times when our seniors are missing out on their graduation ceremonies, proms, all those special things,” Valladares said.
“The obstacles these young people have overcome and the resiliency they have shown is inspirational,” Guardian ad Litem Executive Director Alan Abramowitz said. “We are so proud of them.”
To view the 2020 Triumph Awards ceremony, please visit youtu.be/XcHo1CulE0w. To learn more about becoming a Guardian ad Litem volunteer, please call 1-866-341-1425 or visit www.guardianadlitem.org. To learn more about the Guardian ad Litem Foundation, visit www.flgal.org or call 1-850-922-7213.