Meet Grace, Our New Development Manager

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fd59d9d5-5cbd-4aef-a507-4d2b2454c370Blog readers, we are excited to introduce to you Grace Foster, the newest member of the Active Minds national staff! Grace has joined us as our Development Manager, working closely with all departments to bring in the revenue needed to keep Active Minds growing and thriving.

As you’ll read in just a moment, she has had a fascinating life and we’re so excited to work with Grace and lucky to have her perspective on the national team!

So Grace. Tell us a little about yourself.

Who am I? I am very passionate about furthering the cause for women and being a champion for women’s issues in society. I am confident in myself, fiercely independent, loud with my opinion, louder with my actions, and will always be an advocate for action and change in how we treat women (and people) in this world.

I have strong faith in God and know that I am here on this Earth to help others, and my life’s goal is to help women who have little or no hope. To help them turn their lives around through education, resources, and, through helping them to allow themselves the power of positive thinking and belief in their potential.

But, I was not always like this. I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin near Milwaukee where I was adopted into a then family of 13 children at the age of eight, which grew to 19 children by the time I was in 8th grade. My white, Midwestern-born parents adopted many children of different nationalities, backgrounds and life situations, including many with physical issues and mental health issues, including myself.

I suffered from Attachment Disorder, which many children who are adopted older suffer from, and that affected my mental health for a long time. My parents had big hearts and it was hard for them to turn down a child in need. My dad was also a Protestant Pastor and I always believed my parent’s faith in God was the main factor of how our family came to be.

However, being adopted, growing up in a small, conservative and non-diverse European-descended town, and being a part of such a “strange” family to boot, made things like identity and self-assurance, self-acceptance and belonging very hard to grasp and attain. We grew up in the church and adoption community, and we were home-schooled for a lot of our elementary, grade and high school years, so we did have a sense of “community” and acceptance in that respect, but let me just say that many of us who were not “white” had difficulties assimilating while growing up.

I used to confide in my friends all the time that I would forget I was Asian and different until I looked in the mirror and realized I was not a blonde, blue-eyed or curvy beauty like they were, as I was very skinny throughout high school. My mom told me that when I was young, I’d constantly say that I wish I would have been born with blonde hair and blue eyes and white skin. To add to my different look, I was born with slightly unusual ears that stuck out like Spock from Startreck (yes, I’m serious).

It only added to the jokes and puns I received growing up from the neighborhood kids until I received corrective ear surgery when I was about 11 or 12-years-old. It was very hard for my parents to really be able to relate. They adopted us, yes, but they were white and had birth parents and natural siblings- a “normal” family. They did not have the personal experiences that we had, so it was hard for them to always understand what we were going through.

I grew up shy, reserved, uncertain and ashamed of how I looked and how different I was. I was always trying to please people as I thought that if I could make them like me by doing what they wanted, I would fit in! I allowed myself to be in the shadows and unconfident. Being a people pleaser, I did try to do everything people told me to do. I had a knack for drawing, art in general, and I was a good vocalist. I was thankfully pushed into those avenues, which helped me build some self-esteem, but I was always trying to be more like the “white kids” whom I was surrounded by.

I was always unhappy and high school and college were especially hard, and I didn’t know how to make it better. Being from such a large family, we had to work for everything extra, so I started work at the age of 9 with having multiple paper routes and never stopped working since. I worked at McDonalds in high school to pay the private school tuition, and my peers couldn’t relate to me. They were in sports, other extracurricular activities, and their parents were well off, so I was often made fun of for “flipping burgers” and not driving a car, etc.

There is so much more to this story, of how I became me today, but bottom line is that I wish I would have had a group like Active Minds in my young-adult years where I could talk to others who were struggling with identity and other issues like I was. I really felt alone through youth and young adulthood, but it is because of my experiences then that shaped me to who I am now. I am proud to be who I am, although I still doubt myself and struggle with “belonging” and being “good enough”.

I will use my experience to help those that I can. I am excited to be a part of Active Minds, as I feel I can already relate to so many of the stories I am reading, and I am excited to help the young women I see parts of myself in from so many years ago, knowing that I can be a part of something that is such a needed resource to millions of young people across the globe.

What are your guilty pleasure TV shows?

I am married to a wonderful man who loves to goof around and makes me laugh daily. We are perfect for each other in many ways, one of them being that he is light-hearted and I am very serious, so it’s a great balance. We always conflict when it comes time to watch TV together though, only because he wants to watch all comedies, and I want to watch anything crime-related or anything with mystery and an intense plot. My guilty pleasure is Sci-Fi. Yes, I am a closet sci-fi lover. The Walking Dead is my current favorite.  (He also lets me win our “what-should-we-watch?” battles. Such a sweet guy!)

What’s your favorite season? (season of the year, not season of your favorite guilty pleasure show)

Fall is my favorite. Growing up in the Midwest, it only lasted about a month, maybe 6 weeks, so to live in DC where Fall is a good 3 or more months, I absolutely love and cherish it! It is also the season of when I got married, and the best weather to run outside in.

If you could have a vacation home anywhere in the world, where would it be?

I am a lover of wine and cuisine, especially when they are paired just right! I have a picky pallet and love to taste all different kinds from around the globe. My choice for this reason would be anywhere in wine country in Italy- most likely Tuscany along the coast.

It’s Saturday afternoon. What are you most likely to be doing?

My husband and I have adopted 2 dogs and we are very active with them. On a Saturday afternoon, we are probably in Rockcreek park on a run with them, or we are getting ready to dine in and cook a new dish and try new wine/craft beer.

What are you most excited about when it comes to working at Active Minds?

As I mentioned earlier, I am excited to be a part of Active Minds, as I feel I can already relate to so many of the stories I am reading, and I am excited to help the young women I see parts of myself in from so many years ago, knowing that I can be a part of something that is such a needed resource to hundreds of thousands of young people across the globe. I also feel that I have gained valuable experience to help grow this organization as a part of the Development team, and am very excited to put my knowledge and skills to good use in the coming years.