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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
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CEDAR RAPIDS — Cedar Rapids First Assembly of God will host its third annual Foster Youth Graduation Open House on Sunday for high school graduates in the foster care system — a community event to celebrate and encourage students who have already beat the odds.
The church, 3233 Blairs Ferry Rd. NE, will hold the drive-thru event on Sunday, May 16 for community members to bring cards, gift cards, balloons and words of encouragement in celebrating the graduates. Community members wishing to donate money to students can write checks payable to “CR First” at 3233 Blairs Ferry Rd., Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52404. Donations will be divided evenly among the students.
This year, nine high school graduates from seven schools in the Corridor will be present.
First Assembly of God partners with the Department of Human Services and case workers each year to show students that they’re cared for and supported. Lead Pastor Brian Pingel said that often, foster care graduates don’t have any kind of celebration, even with their foster families.
When: 3 p.m. Sunday, May 16
Where: Cedar Rapids First Assembly of God, 3233 Blairs Ferry Rd. NE, Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52402
Details: Community members are encouraged to bring cards, gift cards or money, balloons and other celebratory items to the church’s parking lot. There, you can drive through a line to congratulate each high school graduate.
Donations can also be mailed to the church. Make checks payable to “CR First.” For more information, contact lead pastor Brian Pingel at email@example.com.
Pingel, a former professor of youth development, adolescent psychology and youth sociology at North Central University in Minneapolis, said that the statistics for foster care children are often grim, reflecting higher risks of being arrested or becoming homeless and much lower rates for high school graduation and pursuit of higher education compared to those who were not in foster care.
“What we’ve heard from students in the past is … (high school graduation) is a big deal,” Pingel said. “This is a good accomplishment, something for them to be really proud of.”
With the support of others in celebrating their graduation, he said they can realize they have the ability to make a difference and be successful.
“Family is key. We all need somewhere we can be known and (somewhere) someone knows us,” he said.
While many who go to college know they’ll be loved if they make a mistake, Pingel said the lack of social capital with foster children often discourages them from taking the types of healthy risks that can advance them.
Simply put: those standing on a concrete platform will jump with greater force than those standing on a rickety chair.
“At their lowest points, they need people who believe in their futures and dreams more than they do,” he said. “As a community, our job is to come alongside and to breathe life into that for them.”
Comments: (319) 398-8340; firstname.lastname@example.org