It’s a given that most people love and cherish the bond they hold with the people they see every time they go to the place they call home at the end of the day. The environment we grew up in affects the way we live the rest of our lives. 14-year-old Joey H. of Manhattan, NY, hasn’t always had the great home life that he has now, but what he’s felt and learned in the past several years from his parents and at his new school have altered the course of his life in a way he never expected.

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Joey and his parents, Brett and Philip

Born in Queens, NY, to birth parents that traveled to the United States from Puerto Rico, Joey says he is the embodiment of a foster kid in the big city. The older a child gets, the more difficult it is to find a great match in the foster system. Being tossed from home to home was very difficult for Joey. He began to wonder if he would ever find parents that could love him. When Joey was seven years old, Brett and Philip came to his rescue. Living with new people in a new environment was not easy at first, but Joey has grown to love and appreciate his life with his parents.

When school is in session, Joey attends a boarding school in Brewster, NY, where he spends Monday through Thursday accelerating his education. He feels very lucky to be getting such a great step up with a good education. Although it’s hard for him to be away from his parents much of the time, Joey loves what his school is doing for his future. He never had a particular interest in science before attending Green Chimneys, but now chemistry is his favorite subject. He particularly enjoys activities involving chemical reactions. It’s exciting to be in control of the experiments.

There is more to going to a new school than academics. Making friends in a new school can be hard. Joey has never had a problem being the “cool kid,” though. Having been in and out of different homes for the first part of his life, Joey has a lot of practice at meeting new people and putting his best foot forward. Joey also enjoys dressing nicely. He thinks people are attracted to his sharp appearance, which matches his very friendly personality. Being one of the popular kids comes with great responsibility though. Joey eventually got the opportunity to show everyone at school just how responsible he is.

One day at school, Joey heard a loud exchange between two kids in a room down the hall. Although he was very busy studying, he went down to see what was going on. Seeing that there was actually a fight about to take place, Joey found a way to separate the kids. He got them to talk to each other in a safe, mature fashion. To this day, Joey says that people think of him as “the peacemaker.” Not only did this act of heroism impress his peers and teachers, but it also gave Joey the idea of doing this on a larger scale as a police officer one day.

It’s nearly impossible to read the news or watch television these days and not hear about criminal charges against police officers. Joey is not impervious to this, and finds that this sort of news only pushes him harder to get through school so that he can be a peacemaker in the real world. Joey believes that a lot of the violence he sees on the news and in New York City is rooted in a misunderstanding between people. Whether it’s violence in a home or issues between police officers and citizens, Joey believes he has what it takes to make this a better world for everyone.

Outside of his dreams to become one of the best police officers New York has ever seen, Joey hopes to create a support group for children who have lived in the foster system like he did. At 14, Joey already understands that people have far more in common than they think. He knows that joining foster kids and parents together will create a great community of individuals that can make the world a better place in their own unique way. When other people see how kids and adults of so many different backgrounds can come together for one cause, it will also help to dispel much of the hatred Joey has seen towards people of color, or people who are outside the mainstream in some way.

When asked if he has any advice for kids going through the foster system right now, Joey says, “Try to make your parents’ lives as easy as possible. They are only there to love and take care of you, and they are people whom you always want on your side.” Joey also says that no one should be hesitant to accept change. It’s change, after all, that has given Joey a new look on life and professional goals that will spawn social change in New York and across the country.

When Joey isn’t attending school or thinking about his future as a peacemaker, he enjoys lifting weights, listening to Spanish music, and being involved in sports. One of his favorite things to do is to watch live basketball at Madison Square Garden with his family, where he feels he can truly be himself and enjoy the life he has been given.ya_1504_Joey3