She has WINGS

Karen Parker

Summerville High School teacher Karen Parker showed kindness and compassion to a foster care student in her classroom, inspiring him to make a difference, and inspiring us to give her WINGS!

When Harold "RJ" Sloke showed up in Karen Parker's keyboarding class in 2006, he stood out among the nearly 200 kids she was teaching. He was underweight and sleeping in class, and Karen was concerned. On just the second day of school, she asked RJ if he was okay and found out that he was living in a group foster home, beginning his third freshman year at a new school, and he was hungry.

Karen gave the teenage boy lunch money and from then on took him under her wing. "I was sad. He was a kid and not able to be a kid," Karen said.

Upon looking into his records, she discovered that while RJ was a bright kid, none of the credits he'd earned in school while being bounced from home to home were transferring, keeping him at a freshman level. "The more I learned about his story, the angrier I got," Karen explained. "The adults in his life had failed him miserably."

Karen helped RJ in after school and summer programs, and outside of the classroom, she tried to give him the childhood he never knew with outings to Riverdogs games, movies, and Frankie's Fun Park. With Karen's help and encouragement, RJ graduated from high school, joined the military and went onto college. "She pushed me into realizing that a high school education is important," RJ said. "If I didn't meet her, I could be in prison or dead because I was in the wrong lifestyle."

Today, RJ is earning a degree, and even more, his experience has prompted him to pursue changing the the federal education privacy law. Once a victim of the foster care system, RJ is now a national advocate for other foster kids. Just last month he was invited to Washington DC to share his story at the Angels in Adoption Gala.

In his speech, RJ credited Karen Parker as the person who saved him from becoming a statistic. "For a child that has dwelled in the dark abyss of hopelessness all their life, it only takes one person to save them. ... She set a fire underneath me that led me out of my struggle," he said.

We applaud Karen for her compassion and dedication to a hungry boy who has become an empathetic and determined man. It's with great pride that we give her WINGS.




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