Student helps change driving age for foster youth

Photo courtesy of Glenda Wright

Story by Abby Siegel, News Editor

Glenda Wright, senior from Owensboro, Kentucky, is making a difference for children in foster care, inspired by her personal experience in the system.

Wright said her mother, who had a drug addiction, dropped her and her three siblings off at daycare one day and never returned.

Growing up Wright and her siblings lived with her grandmother, but when she passed away in 2009, they were taken into the care of the state. She had three total placements that ultimately divided Wright from her siblings.

“Just imagine you meeting someone, and then someone next to you telling you these are the people you will be going with,” Wright said. “It is literally going home with a stranger and hoping for the best.”

Now Wright is president of Voices of the Commonwealth, an advocacy group of current and former foster youth. Through this position she recently played a role in passing House Bill 192, which impacts the age that foster youth may get their driver’s license.

Before the bill was made law, foster youth could not get their driver’s license until they turned 18-years-old. Now, foster youth may get their driver’s permit at age 16.

This past summer Wright was asked to present to the committee and talk on behalf of the VOC about the driver’s license bill. She also spoke with the Kentucky Senate and advocated for the bill that is now law by sharing her personal story of the time she spent in foster care.

Bevin

“After experiencing the system’s challenges firsthand, she found a way to use that expertise to benefit Kentucky’s most vulnerable children,” said Kentucky Gov.  Matt Bevin. “Her story inspires us, and we are so appreciative of her work with Voices of the Commonwealth.”

Wright said she applied to be a pizza delivery driver at Papa John’s her freshman year at Murray State but did not receive that position because she did not have her license for a year at the time of application, which she said is a Papa John’s requirement. Wright said at that time the driver’s license bill she helped develop was not yet established.

“There are definitely things that need to be changed, but overall it is a good system,” she said. “It’s not all cupcakes, but there are good parts to it.”

Wright said the foster care system is continuing to improve, and that the system will be much different for children of this generation that it was for her. She said Gov. Bevin is making changes the system needs.

“Kentucky will be the model for excellence in foster care and adoption, and Kentuckians like Glenda will be what makes that vision a reality,” Gov. Bevin said.

Gov. Bevin signed the bill into law as an advocate for children. He and his wife adopted four children from Ethiopia in 2012, adding to the five biological children they have.

“My wife and I are wholeheartedly invested in improving Kentucky’s foster care system, relying on those with similar passion to help us make significant change happen,” said Gov. Bevin. “Glenda Wright is, without a doubt, just this type of person.”