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The RisforThursday Story
Research for an as yet un-named research project on foster alumni students in Oklahoma began in 2012, soon after I achieved tenure as a faculty member of the College of Education at Oklahoma State University. As a research faculty member in graduate programs for higher education and student affairs, I was naturally positioned to study college students. However, I had no background in social work or related fields.
At that point, we knew a number of statistics about foster alumni college students but had very little formal, research data that provided a voice to the students themselves – an opportunity to tell their own stories, in their words, and without the filtering of others. I began interviews with several courageous volunteer foster alumni college students. By the third interview, my lens for understanding life was forever changed.
I learned to sit stoically while students described a bloody beating. I learned that children escape through windows and run for their lives. I learned to give no response when a young woman said she was raped at age 8. I learned that these students, now at a college campus, were resilient and resourceful and motivated far beyond what I could have ever imagined. They were fighters. They simply refused to remain victims.
I learned that while I had worked hard, the doors in life were opened for me. And I realized that we, the people of Oklahoma, are the parents of kids in foster care because there is no “State of Oklahoma”; the state of Oklahoma is us. And due to lack of knowledge, the juggling of our own “stuff,” and sometimes to lack of concern, we have too often done a poor job of caring for our children, our orphans.
And, I realized this college student population was both a significant social issue and an economic issue for Oklahoma.
My job as a researcher is primarily to ask questions. But, with 20 years of organizational development/consulting experience prior to entering academia, I had the capability to do more. So I gathered some of my students and my friends. And RisforThursday, named by one of our early research participants, was born.
I believe there are others more qualified by training and by experience to lead RisforThursday, but I also believe that all of us must lead from where we are planted, truly qualified or not. As a colleague of mine says about leadership: "I believe that you believe someone else is coming...and you are it. No one else is coming." We are here. And we must join the fight.
We welcome you to our webpage, which has been made possible through the helping hands of many people. We hope that each of you will find a place in which you can become involved with our work of hearts.
Kerri Kearney, MBA, Ed.D.
Higher Education & Student Affairs
Oklahoma State University, College of Education