Hero Helps Foster Children and the Community
“It doesn’t matter where you have been, when you turn 18 you can take the reins and choose to be successful, you can become anything you desire to be,” said Southwest Community College’s Great Expectations Coordinator Jennifer Roark.
This is what Roark tells the foster youth students she works with in the community. Roark has been the Great Expectations (GE) coordinator at SWCC since 2012, and is employed at Cumberland Mountain CSB as a licensed professional counselor in their children’s program, as well. Roark lives in Belfast, Virginia is a wife to husband Ricky, mother of one daughter and is a trained foster parent in Virginia, though she does not currently host any foster children.
When asked about her motivation to help foster children and the community Roark said, “They are often a forgotten group of youth, few people consider what actually happens to them when they age out of foster care. My hope is to get them into college and show them that they can be successful if they are willing to work hard. It is important for all of us to give back to our community as it strengthens the community as a whole. It can transform lives, and set the stage for very powerful and positive changes.”
Roark has also been an American Red Cross volunteer for over 20 years. When asked about her experience she said, “I began volunteering initially for the American Red Cross as a CPR/First Aid Instructor. Later, when I finished my Master’s degree and became a licensed counselor, I began volunteering as Mental Health Provider during disaster situations. This included working not only with the victims, but also with other volunteers as they too can have traumatic experiences in those situations. I recall when the tornado hit the Glade Spring Va. area in 2011, working with a family whose home had been damaged to the point of having to be torn down. I sat in the front yard of their home holding their three-year-old daughter in my lap as the family watched their home being dozed down. It was at that moment that I realized we never know when something like this can happen, to any one of us…and there are times that we need, as a community to be there for one another.”
Another part of her ARC volunteer work, Roark started and leads the Red Cross club at SWCC, the first Red Cross Club at a Virginia Community College. “The club provides students the opportunity to give back to the community,” Roark says. One of the biggest focuses for the club is to send soldiers Christmas cards every year, the club has sent more than 30,000 Christmas cards to the military troops serving overseas during the holidays. The club also collects and sends care packages to the troops.
Roark is passionate about several things; including photography “If you focus on God, you can see the beauty of his creations through the camera lens. It’s the same with people you see God’s work in everyone, they all have potential and we can learn things from everyone we meet,” says Roark of her love for photographing the beauty of the world, and helping people.