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Savannah Kniffin Essay

"Be positive" - the phrase I constantly reminded myself growing up. Like many other people I have had my share of struggles and obstacles being the daughter of two drug addicted parents. However, I do not like to dwell on them. I believe if I want to persevere through my hardships I must remain positive. I am not the type of person to feel sorry for myself, never have and never will. My future goals and the support of my Youth Advocate Program (YAP) caseworker are the voices in my head telling me to "be positive."

 Growing up I had to see, hear, and deal with many things other kids did not. From a young age I was subjected to drug use, hospital visits, prison visits, violence, and strangers questioning me about "my home life." I was bounced around from foster home to home with my mom to relatives to back home with my mom. This was while my dad was in and out of prison. There's no pity party here though because I consider those things blessings in a bad formation. Those things did not deter me; they only made my drive for success harder. I always knew since I was a little girl; one day I would make it out of the dysfunction and chaos. I love my parents and admire them for battling this disease called addiction. I do not begrudge them for the mistakes they have made because I accept their addiction. Although they have their problems I have always wanted to make them proud of me.

Being positive has helped me tremendously in life. I have been an honor student since elementary school. My senior year, with my mom in rehab and my dad in prison, I am even taking AP courses. I have applied for college ail on my own. I do not do drugs and have never been in any kind of trouble with the law. I started working when I was fourteen and pay for almost everything I own including my car. I am a very punctual, neat, and organized person. I owe all these qualities to my experiences growing up. I say this because if I had not gone through those experiences I would not be the positive person I am today.

I have had the goal of growing up and being successful in life for as long as I can remember. I have waited my whole life to attend college and get a good paying job. This goal was what kept me positive at times. Thinking of how great I knew life would be for me in the future was my dream. As a little girl I said to myself "one day I will grow up and have a big house with a nice car." Money is a powerful thing but it is not my main motivation. Success is my motivation. I want to be able to say "I made it." With the words of encouragement of my YAP caseworker my goals sound so much more realistic. She gives me a lending ear when it comes to my home situation and advice about college. I have decided to attend my local community college (Occc) after graduating high school in June. I am going to study criminal justice to become a parole officer. I have chosen this career path in order to help someone like my parents. That is also another one of my goals. These future goals are what kept me focused on remaining positive.

The phrase "be positive" is a daily alarm ringing in my head. Every time I am having a tough day I am reminded of it. My parents and my experiences have molded me into the successful person I will one day be. My goals and the support of my YAP caseworker also play a very important part. Like I said; success is my motivation.

Savannah Kniffin Nomination Letter

Jaclyn Booth
Preventive Case Manager
Orange County, NY

I am writing in reference to my client, Savannah Kniffin. Savannah is a 17 year old young woman who has overcame a lot in her short life. Savannah was first in foster care when she was an infant. Since then, Savannah has been in and out of the foster care system. Savannah was last sent home to her mother in 2011, which is what led to the involvement of the Youth Advocate Program. Since YAP’s involvement with the family, Savannah’s mother has relapsed twice. Savannah’s mother has an addiction to heroin and prescription pills. Her mother is currently in rehab for a minimum of six months, since her relapse in November 2012. Savannah’s father is currently serving a two year sentence in County Jail for attempted murder. Despite the absence of Savannah’s mother and father, YAP has been able to prevent her from reentering foster care through the use of both formal and informal supports in Savannah’s life.

Although Savannah has experienced more stuff in 17 years than most people do in a lifetime, she still manages to maintain excellent grades in school and has been on the high honor roll every marking period. Savannah has been able to maintain a job, while simultaneously working on her high school diploma. Due to Savannah’s high academic achievements and excellence in Italian, Savannah was given the opportunity to study abroad in Italy for ten days in March 2013. Savannah was fortunate enough to have family members and community resources assist with the $1700.00 trip, but unfortunately Savannah does not have any funds to bring with her on the trip, so she can fully indulge in the experience.

Through my work with Savannah, she has proven to be a strong, hard working individual who was dealt a very bad hand in life. I recommend Savannah for the Endowment Fund, because I feel that we should honor a youth in our program that has surpassed many challenges, while still having a positive attitude toward life. Savannah is going to graduate high school this year with honors, and has been able to apply for college with the assistance of the Youth Advocate Program. It is Youth’s like Savannah that are a direct reflection of YAP’s mission “to provide individuals who are, have been or may be subject to compulsory care with the opportunity to develop, contribute and be valued as assets so that communities have safe, proven effective and economical alternatives to institutional placement.”

Savannah’s case has also been reviewed by the president of YAP, Ms. Stephanie Hart. Ms. Hart is in agreement that Savannah should be recognized for her achievements and she would benefit greatly from the endowment fund.

I would like to thank you in advance for your time and consideration, and I hope to hear from you soon.