Not Just a Dream: A Message from FMC’s New Vice President
I knew one thing from a very early age: I wanted to help people through writing. I wanted to share my own story so that other kids wouldn’t feel alone in the world, and so they would know that the hardships they faced would pay off someday. As I became aware of my mom’s story of aging out of foster care at 17 in rural Kansas, that dream evolved and I knew I wanted to use writing to help kids in foster care.
But I had no idea what that looked like or how I would get there. I ended up doing marketing and communications for a nutrition company – a kind of writing that sort of helped people – but with each year I felt my dream dying a little, and it became unbearable.
In 2012, after upending my life and spending a year surfing, visiting old friends and writing in a lonely mountaintop home far from anyone I knew, I settled in downtown Los Angeles, ready to “figure out” the rest of my life. I searched the internet for “foster care + writing” and Google served up what would become my future.
Fostering Media Connections, I learned, was doing exactly the thing I’d been imagining for the past 25 years. It was also, unfortunately, located hundreds of miles north in San Francisco.
I enrolled in the Masters in Public Administration program at the University of Southern California’s Sol Price School of Public Policy that fall, believing that studying public policy and nonprofit management would get me where I wanted to go.
As I perused the course offerings for my second semester, I found one called “Media for Social Change” that was all about using journalism to drive attention to a social issue, in this case the child welfare system. The syllabus cited the field-changing adverse childhood experiences study, which I had recently discovered through my own research. By the time I got to the end of the very long syllabus, I was sold, and I was surprised to see that the instructor was one Daniel Heimpel, founder of Fostering Media Connections, or FMC.
A few months after that course concluded, I started working for FMC part-time. That was five years ago. My role has evolved with the organization; I’ve grown as FMC has grown. Through it all I have always been encouraged to have a voice and to use it, whether it’s on the page or in strategic planning sessions. Using my voice is one of my greatest challenges, but in order to do good work I know have to be unafraid to rise up and get loud.
FMC challenges me to confront the things that hold me back while giving me the opportunity to live the vision I’ve had for my life since I was in grade school. Daniel usually shifts in his seat or averts his eyes when we, his team, give him credit for what he’s built. But the truth is that from the moment I sat in his classroom at USC, I knew my opinion counted. I knew I would be treated equally, I would be paid fairly, I would not be stereotyped, and that ultimately I would be the only one who could limit my own success.
Today, we are announcing my new role as vice president; Daniel and I will work to strengthen FMC so that our team can rise up and get loud in 2019. Together, with the rest of our team, we are shaping FMC into a fierce journalism organization that is relentless in its questioning of the public systems that were built to serve but often punish children and families in need.
We use stories to change the lives of those among us who have the fewest rights and the least power. Today this isn’t just the dream of a lonely kid wandering the wheat fields of Kansas; it’s our mission. You can make it your mission, too.
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- Christie Renick