I don’t come from the best background, but I refuse to be a victim.

Troy Pace, 21 years old
New Directions Resident (2011-present)
Keynote Speaker for 2012 Casa Kids Campus Grand Opening

Hi, my name is Troy, and I think I have one of the best jobs in the world: I’m a game attendant at Legoland—pretty much a carnie, a barker. I love it. I love it because I get to play with kids all day. I’m that guy who makes you laugh and enjoy yourself because I enjoy my job so much. You’ve all heard the expression “you get what you give,” right? Well, according to my boss, I must be giving a lot because I receive the most guest compliments out of any of my coworkers. That means a lot, because life hasn’t always been so giving to me.

I love my parents, but when I was younger, my mom and dad were in and out of prison too often for them to be a big influence in my life. I was raised by my stepdad Robert; he was a good man who raised me right, but he died of liver disease when I was 14. I ended up in foster care and was in and out of different homes until coming to New Directions last year.

I know foster families can be great in many cases, but that wasn’t true for me. For three years until I turned eighteen, I was in a foster home where the foster parents treated me like a paycheck. I had no money for clothes or an allowance for anything I needed. I always felt used, but I had a strong group of friends that supported and encouraged me.

When I was 15, I met my biological dad for the first time. He’d been in prison for most of my life due to drug related charges. Growing up, I quickly learned that my dad was someone we didn’t talk about so I was surprised to find that he was actually a very respectable man. I’ve learned that life isn’t just black or white. People have good and bad sides; sometimes really bad, but drugs don’t necessarily make the man. My dad taught me how to treat people right. Today he’s my best friend.

As much as I wanted to be on my own when my time in foster care ended last year, I was really scared because I had no home, no job, and no money. So when an independent living skills worker told me about New Directions, I just knew this was right for me so I kept calling week after week until a spot finally opened up.

Jimmy, my advocate, helped me get my first job. Mike Platis, one of Casa’s board members, hired me to help at the Greek Gourmet, his food booth at the Del Mar Fair. I loved it! More than finally making money, it gave me experience and a great reference I used to look for jobs when the fair ended. I went to New Directions every day for months, looking for job leads and sending resumes. New Directions was very supportive and staff members actively helped me better myself… and here I am now, stable for the first time since I was 14 years old.

My experience both in foster care and the transition out has inspired me to want to make a positive and lasting change in my own life and the lives of others.

In addition to being a former foster child, I am also a member of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. Both my tribe and the foster care system have helped me growing up and I want to give that back. I am studying psychology at Palomar College and my goal is to be a social worker for Native American children. I want to help young Indian foster youth take advantage of benefits the tribe offers as well as build their lives.

I don’t come from the best background, but I refuse to be a victim. One of my favorite quotes is “I don’t want to be a product of my environment; I want my environment to be a product of me.” I want to let other kids like me know that if I can make something of myself, they can too.

New Directions has helped me get to this point and I’m very thankful for their support and encouragement. I want to thank all of you here today for creating the Casa Kids Campus for kids like me. Your support of Casa de Amparo goes further than you can imagine.

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