Kelsey P.

Eau Claire, Wisconsin

"The answer lies in the influences young people have, the programs and people who shape their identities." In his book, Acts of Faith, Eboo Patel comes to this conclusion when searching for a reason why some children grow up to be tolerant religious pluralism leaders while others become terrorists. This book and Eboo Patel's life have inspired me to follow my heart and support the world's future by helping one of the most at-risk groups in America: children in the foster-care system. I know I can make a difference in their lives by rallying to improve the system and encourage adoptions, and creating a non-profit organization that gives these children opportunities they might not otherwise have.

The foster-care system is, all-in-all, a good idea. However, there are many flaws that need to be addressed. A huge problem right now, especially with the economy the way it is, is finding good foster parents. A lot of times the system will just accept applicants because they need them, rather than because they are prime candidates. This often leads to a poor upbringing of an already at-risk child. This is why we must not only find better foster parents, but try to increase the number of adoptions. Small children are usually adopted; however, the older children often get left in the dust. No one wants to raise a 15 year old who may have some issues because of his past. These are the children we need to help. They have so much potential, but they too often are influenced by the wrong people.

Patel focuses on creating an interfaith movement, teaching young people tolerance and acceptance of religions before negative influences can get to them. I want to do the same thing, but in a different context. I want to create a non-profit organization that gives opportunities to children who are in foster-care. These opportunities would include everything from a simple safe place to come filled with friends, to specific things like tutoring and job help. This is a place where they would be surrounded with people who truly care about them and want them to succeed. With good influences in their lives, these children have a much better chance at being good citizens.

Eboo Patel's life is truly an inspiration. He realized how important it is to help at-risk children and influence them in a good way before they can be manipulated into thinking negatively about the world. After reading this book, I truly am inspired to work toward my goal of fixing the foster-care and adoption systems and creating a non-profit organization that provides good influences in these young lives. At the end of the book, Eboo Patel explains why he felt so strongly about his cause, and it is the same reason I feel so strongly about mine. He says, "We have to say each other. It's the only way to save ourselves."