Four years ago, Connor was a freshman living in unstable housing when he was referred to our School Outreach Coordinator, Kaitlin Thomas, at Federal Way High School. He was in need of food, clothing and most importantly the stability of a caring adult relationship and someone to talk to. Connor was living with his three siblings at the time while his mother was working all day and most of the night. He was responsible for dropping his younger siblings off at school, cooking and cleaning, and he rarely had time for schoolwork. Connor and Kaitlin got along almost instantly, and Connor knew Kaitlin was a good listener as soon as he met her.
Only a few months into his freshman year, Connor experienced tremendous hardship and was taken out of his home and placed into the foster care system. Since then, despite living hours away in North Seattle, he has managed to come to school on time every day. The stability he found at Federal Way High School, and with Kaitlin, motivated him to make the situation work and show up no matter where he was living. He has moved through shelters and foster homes, all while struggling to find himself, discovering who he was and wanted to be, and eventually transitioning from Chloe, a female, to Connor.
Connor has grown so much in the last four years. He is one of those students who truly had the odds against him, but always put his education first. He knew to ask for support when he needed it. He started out as a student who struggled with academics, was regularly out of class because of emotional issues, and lacked confidence in who he was. He did not have stable parents in his life, and was lacking positive role models and people who accepted him for who he was.
“Finding your place in the world is something everyone struggles with,” said Connor looking back on his journey of self discovery. “But CIS not only helped me live a life any human deserves to live, they also helped me find that place where I truly fit.”
Once he found CIS, and felt loved and accepted, he was able to accept himself and grow in so many ways. Now he is a thriving young man, who is unapologetically himself. Along the way, Kaitlin matched Connor with a volunteer Mentor, Natalie. This provided another stable caring adult for Connor to confide in and go to for help in navigating life’s challenges and the challenges of being a teenager.
“My mentor means so much to me,” wrote Connor. “Her kindness and wisdom have given me knowledge on topics of which I was previously scared of. She has taken my fear of college and the future and thrown it into a metaphorical blender to shred it into glitter. She has created a safe place for me to be my gayest self in both meanings of the word and whenever we’re together you can bet great things are happening. She is part of my foundation as a person and what she’s done for me is more than I was ever expecting, lifting my confidence up from where it once lay in the dirt and dusting it off with a gentle smile before throwing it into the air to lift me higher. I will always treasure our time together ...”
In his own words, Connor has “a determination that refuses to die.” He has overcome all the challenges that life has thrown at him and has come out on the other side, stronger and more grounded in his belief that he can and will succeed. He is on his way to Seattle Central Community College in the fall and plans to study theater and writing.
“I am more than a thin waist and big hips. I am more than a case file on a social worker’s desk. I am so much more than a trans kid who’s been through a lot. And more than a special case,” says Connor. “I want everyone to know that I am a strong person. I have bad days when I’m mean, I have bad nights when I cry myself to sleep. But I also have good days when I laugh and skate and create. I’m a person. Not good, not bad. I want people to know that I’m the best me.“
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