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(NECN: Kristen Doucet) – From a young age Henry Melendez was raised by his single mother - a mother he lost to epilepsy at age 19.
Now at 23 years old he shares his story of overcoming adversity in hopes of inspiring others.
“I just like to speak to other youth and it doesn't have to be kids from Holyoke or places that I’m close to, it's just about reaching out to the kids who may be going through some things that I may be able to reach out to them, relate to them in some way,” said Melendez.
Melendez spoke to more than one hundred and fifty youth in foster care from around the state.
The Department of Children and Families annual summit brings children together to share stories, build relationships and participate in workshops.
Governor Deval Patrick was the event's guest speaker.
“We know what we are supposed to do, but it’s also important you know what you are supposed to do, which is to have your reach exceed your grasp,” said Patrick.
The summit offers workshops on financial literacy, higher education programs, career options and community involvement.
DCF Commissioner Angelo McClain says the event aims to enhance life skills for youths ages 16-22.
“It’s an opportunity to have an experience will others who have experiences just like them, it cuts down the isolation because sometimes, when you are struggling you feel like you are the only one,” said McClain.
Health and Human Services Secretary Judy Ann Bigby says the summit is about empowering young people to realize their dreams.
She says the summit prepares them for the journey that lies ahead.
“We care about these youth and we understand that somebody has to play a role in supporting them transition into adulthood,” said Bigby.
Melendez says he wants to help youth realize their potential.
He says his message today was never stop moving forward.
“When you are a successful person, you're going to work hard, you are going to sacrifice and you are going to face adversity along the way, the most important thing is to get through adversity to reach your potential,” said Melendez.
Tags: speech, summit, Youth, Kristen Doucet, Henry Melendez, Deval patcrick, foster children