Giving hope to the hopeless: Kent State student advocates for foster children

Keri Richmond

Keri Richmond

Alexandra Gray

Keri Richmond, a sophomore public relations major, has been an intern, volunteer, donor and advocate here in Kent and Washington, D.C. for foster children around the country.  

Richmond started off this journey by becoming a social media intern for Together We Rise, a non-profit organization with a goal of improving the foster care system. She thinks this organization is important because the cause is close to her heart, since she, too, was in the foster care system for about four years.  

“Everyday 1,200 kids enter foster care in the United States.” This statistic is the first thing that one will see upon going to the Together We Rise website.  

“When I saw (Together We Rise) was looking for interns, I immediately wanted to get involved,” Richmond said.  

For her internship, she was required to do several different things, one being to raise $500. Going above and beyond, Richmond decided to start a fundraiser called “Carry Hope” that would provide children in the foster care system with “sweetcases.” This translated to duffle bags filled with pillows, blankets, hygiene products and a coloring book with crayons.  

Richmond also insisted on her friends and family to donate to her fundraiser instead of buying her presents for her birthday, which was around the corner at the time.  “Carry Hope” raised $4,200 and 160 foster children in the local area were able to receive “sweetcases.”

“I absolutely loved my internship with Together We Rise and love all that they stand for,” she said.  

Following her internship with Together We Rise, Richmond spent the summer in Washington, D.C. interning for the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute and in U.S. Senator Rob Portman’s office. In the nation’s capital, Richmond continued to advocate for foster children.  

During her summer internship, the 21-year-old wrote a policy report with her own recommendations to improve the foster care system across the country based on her personal experiences in the system. At the end of the internship, she presented this report to the Domestic Policy Council at the White House and to members of Congress.  

“It was a life changing summer where I grew personally, professionally and spiritually,” Richmond said.  

Richmond’s policy report gives a deeper look at her experiences in foster care and her ideas to improve the system.  Her report can be found on page 42 on the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute website.

“She took a hardship in her life, grew from it and has given back and has gotten involved in so many ways,” said Breanna Ganuelas, a junior at Kent State who also interned with Together We Rise.  

Richmond said she is grateful to be able to use her personal experiences to try to make sure other children do not have to go through a similar experience. She also believes these internships have helped her heal by telling her story to others.  

Richmond is still unsure where her career path will take her, but she still plans on advocating for others.

“I plan to continue to use my voice for those who may not be ready to speak out yet,” Richmond said.

She said she’s thankful for the people who have given her hope and believes it’s her time to “try to give hope to the hopeless.”

According to the latest statistics found by the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System, 415,129 kids were in foster care at the end of September in 2014, which was a four percent increase since 2012.  

“I want all former and current foster youth to know how much value and potential they have,” she said.  

Richmond recently accepted another internship with Together We Rise where she will spend two weeks in Denver over the winter break.  

Alexandra Gray is the student politics reporter for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].