|Source: Living Lutheran|
In his valedictorian speech at Goldsboro High School senior, Michael Cruz, reflected on his experiences of foster care and said,“I have dedicated my life to be a light to those lost in the darkness.”
Cruz, a former foster care client of Lutheran Services Carolinas, spent much of his teenage years in the foster care system. Abused by his mother’s then boyfriend, Cruz was removed from his mother’s custody when he turned 5 and spent his middle and high school years bouncing from home to home.
“My mother met this guy, and he seemed pretty cool at first,” Cruz said. “He was charismatic, and he seemed to be very caring and loving. But it all changed in the blink of an eye. He became very malicious and started manipulating us. I was sexually abused, physically abused and emotionally abused.”
After relocating to North Carolina with his mother and her boyfriend, Cruz met his first girlfriend and learned through positive interactions with her family that his experiences were not normal. Being around her parents opened his eyes to the severity of the scope of his experiences and the vulnerability of his younger siblings to abuse.
During one interaction, Cruz recalled,“He was calling me every name in the book, and I felt like a fire was put in my heart. I felt like God gave me the motivation because I never thought about standing up to him before.”
In that moment, Cruz confronted the man about the past sexual abuse. In response, the boyfriend began assaulting him. Managing to get away, Cruz ran to his neighbors where he called the police.
Cruz said, “I felt like we were about to die, like he was going to kill us. I walked in the office, and I just broke down crying and told them every little detail.”From December 2020 until he moved to college, Cruz lived with LSC foster parent Debbie Eaddy.
“I loved seeing how people admired him at his school for what he’s been through and come through to get to this place,” she said. “He is very persistent. When he sets his mind to do something, he is going to make it happen.”
Now a freshman at North Carolina State University, Cruz said his two passions are helping people and studying psychology. He dreams of one day establishing his own shelter system to support individuals emotionally, financially, and spiritually.
“Everything happens for a reason,” Cruz said. “I look at my experience as a blessing rather than a curse because it has shaped who I am today.”
Source: Living Lutheran