A local former foster youth speaks out
Ar’mone Clemmons has had to work twice as hard for everything he has achieved here in Sacramento. He did it to defy the foster care statistics he had been bombarded with his whole life.
Now 25 years old, Ar’mone stands tall – he not only graduated high school, he graduated college. Then he entered graduate school. Now in a master’s program for social work, Ar’mone is climbing steadily toward his dream to become a county foster care social worker and eventually open his own nonprofit helping foster kids succeed. He plans to join our Income Impact Council this year, which oversees our $en$e-Ability project preparing foster youth for financial success.
“For me, there was no choice but to continue to find a way,” he said. “You have to be your own advocate.”
Why will Ar’mone make it? Grit, determination and four adults along the way who taught him he would.
Ar’mone grew up in Sacramento, living in and out of foster care from age 7 until he left the system at age 18. When he was 11 or 12, he was placed with an older couple – a pastor and his wife – who brought Ar’mone and his siblings together under one roof for the first time. Though he was only with them a couple of years, he credits them with teaching him how to create a stable environment.
“They showed us compassion, love, care and support, and they taught me I could have a college education, a home and a loving family,” he said.
He now affectionately calls them Grandma and Grandpa. Though his Grandpa passed away last year, he still visits his Grandma regularly.
With grit and determination, Ar’mone graduated high school despite continuing to move to new homes. He sought out scholarship opportunities, many of which fell through, and eventually found the Enriched Scholars Program for foster youth that helped him pay for books at American River College, Cosumnes River College and Sacramento State.
At Cosumnes River College, Ar’mone met Aselia Valedez, who ran the scholarship program. Aselia was his mentor there and was “always in my corner,” he said. She helped him get to Sacramento State.
At Sacramento State, he met his mentor and chair of the social work department Dale Russell. “He has always been there for me,” Ar’mone said. “I feel very alone and isolated, but I know I can always call on Dale and he will be there for me.”
The odds were stacked against Ar’mone, but he made it, thanks to four adults and his parents, who he said helped him learn how to not repeat their experiences. He now plans to be an encouraging adult in a child’s life.
“So many foster youth don’t believe they can make it,” Ar’mone said. “They feel self-defeated. The best gift you can instill in foster children is faith and hope that things can be better, and that they have the gifts and ability to do it.”
Ar’mone’s story is courageous & impressive. Frankly, we need more stories just like it. You can help by joining the efforts of United Way’s Women in Philanthropy to shape the future of our local foster youth. Learn more here!