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Seeing the Glass Half Full: Derrick’s Story

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Derrick listens to interview questions from Aerotek recruiter Lauren Brotherton during the 2016 Leadership for Life Employment Fair on February 2015.

When he is working at his part-time job as a Subway employee, 17-year old Callen-Lacey Center for Children resident and Berkeley High School junior Derrick* likes nothing more than to make customers smile and to brighten up someone’s day.

This might seem unusual for a youth in foster care with no family support network who has faced tremendous adversity, but Derrick is adamant about projecting a positive, upbeat attitude.

“Whenever I was younger and growing up I had barely anyone to look up to,” recalls Derrick.

He would watch TV shows about superheroes and think to himself, “I want to be someone’s hero.”

There’s certainly no denying that Derrick, who came to Callen-Lacey in January 2015, has put forth a heroic effort to better himself and has willingly and graciously accepted assistance from staff to improve his academic standing and begin preparing for life after high school.

When Derrick arrived at Callen-Lacey, he had previously been living in a friend’s home he refers to as “grandma’s house.”

He remembers that it took him a couple weeks to adjust to life in a group home staying with other kids of varying ages. But with the support of staff, teachers and volunteer groups, Derrick has been able to maintain exceptional grades while still working 10-15 hours a week at Subway. The work/school balance has been good for him so far and helped him learn about the importance of time management.

School success didn’t always come easy, but living in a safe environment has allowed him to focus, study hard and exam cram when the need arises.

His favorite subjects are math, science and law education. Derrick’s law education class has him especially interested in criminal law and forensics.

He also has many hobbies, from playing basketball, football and video games to listening to music and reading. His passion though, is drawing.

An art teacher comes to Callen-Lacey every Sunday to volunteer her time with the young people there, and Derrick always appreciates the chance to hone his craft.

This summer he will explore whether this artistic pursuit of his might hold some career potential when he takes a graphic design course at the Art Institute of Charleston. Staff helped him fill out his application and he is thrilled about the opportunity.

Derrick notes that the “technology field is in high demand,” and they will need people with artistic skills. Since drawing is his forte, he figured graphic design might be a natural segue. That and he loves video and computer games, so the idea of combining those two hobbies into an occupation is appealing.

At his job with Subway, Derrick wears a number of hats: making sandwiches, food prep, cleaning, helping customers in store and in the drive-thru-he has even trained another employee.

Yet ever the personable guy, Derrick enjoys interacting directly with people the most. He likes having nice conversations with store patrons and typically makes jokes and small talk. Based on his own experience, he can relate to someone who might seem down or negative, and he tries his best to cheer them up.

“I feel I can help others with what they are going through,” says Derrick.

*Not his real name