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Melisa Suljic

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When I first heard that I was selected to be the Keynote Speaker at Mockingbird’s annual Benefit Luncheon, I was shocked. I had never done anything like this before. It made me feel really important to be asked and to know that the work I’ve been doing with Mockingbird is making a difference. It showed me that people see me for who I am — a leader. Not everyone in my life sees me this way. But with Mockingbird, I was treated like someone who mattered and asked to share my story in a really big way.

To prepare for the Luncheon, I’ve gone on quite an adventure. Mockingbird staff have been great with giving me feedback, advice, and pushing me outside my comfort zone in a good way. Brian, Mockingbird’s Director of Development, helped me emphasize key points in my speech and taught me how to command a crowd. I’ve practiced a lot! Although it was intimidating to practice in front of big groups, it was helpful to hear their comments and to practice handling the emotions I feel when talking about my life. I’ve learned to be patient and not to be too hard on myself when I don’t get something right.

I’m proud to share my story! I’ve come such a long way. A lot of people thought I wouldn’t be here, but here I am getting the opportunity to speak in front of more than 500 attendees! Thinking back to where I’ve come from and where I am now, I’m proud of where I am and who I’ve become. I’ve worked really hard and now I get to be a role model to my peers. I haven’t always set the best example, but now I’m doing positive things and am happy that people can look up to me. I want to make an impact, and speaking at the Luncheon was a great opportunity for me to do that.

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I am excited to continue to be a mentor and to support my peers to live the lives that they want. I am excited to continue to break down stereotypes about foster youth and empower young people to be who they are. By being the Keynote Speaker, not only did I get to share my story but I also got to create connections and build more resources for foster youth. Speaking at the Luncheon made me feel empowered and really proud of all the hard work that I’m doing in my life. It felt great to have a voice and to share my hardships as well as my successes.

The Mockingbird Society is so much more than a place for me to become an advocate — it has become a family to me. It is a foundation that has helped me set healthy boundaries for my relationships and my life. Being a part of Mockingbird and speaking at the Luncheon has been a life changing experience. It has helped me to embrace my inner leader, has proven to myself that I am able to do whatever I put my mind to and has opened up so many doors. This is the beginning of a long time career for me as a mentor, as an advocate, and as a social service provider.

<< go to October 2015 Mockingbird Times