The Boca Raton-based nonprofit, the American Association of Caregiving Youth (AACY), celebrated their high school seniors’ graduation at Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth on Thursday. Graduating from public schools all around Palm Beach County, the students packed into the College Conference Center alongside their families for an evening of merriment, awards, dinner, and camaraderie.
This celebration marked a turning point for many, especially those who had spent up to seven years in the Caregiving Youth Project. The AACY is a resource that uplifts middle and high school caregivers. They have the responsibility of caring for chronically ill, injured, disabled, and/or elderly relatives; all the while balancing their education, and often work, as well.
AACY Family Specialists are assigned to specific schools to educate and provide their youth with the tools they need to manage life and its stresses as well as keep up with their school assignments. “As caregivers, we oftentimes struggle to know who we are or identify who we are apart from our caregiving role. We become so used to putting our sick loved ones first that we forget about ourselves,”, says Joyce Adhemar, now a young adult and former AACY participant.
It’s an often-overlooked population, but the AACY aims to shine a light on students’ potential. Many of the students have big plans, and AACY emphasizes the importance of aiming high. More than a high school graduation, this event symbolized a new chapter in their Caregiving Youth’s journey. “The AACY graduation was an amazing event. It was very impactful and touching to hear our students speak about how we helped them overcome the challenges of being a youth caregiver, medically taking care of their loved one. Most of our students have been in our program since the sixth grade. I am so proud of them all.”, says Rosie Inguanzo-Martin, a board member with the AACY and guest speaker.
The prospect of balancing caregiving responsibilities with a college career is demanding, but far from impossible. With the knowledge that the AACY’s alumni group is only ever a call away, the journey is promising and hopeful.
Photo credit: Michael Connor
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