Congratulations to the 2020 Holt Adoptee Scholarship winners — Kyla DeWittie, Lila Durig and Alexa Thompson!
In 2019, we asked applicants to submit a creative work framed around the question, “If you were to register for an “Adoptee 101″ class next fall, what would it teach you? Who would teach it? Why? ” Kyla, Lila and Alexa each received a $500 scholarships funded by donors to put toward the cost of higher education. See their winning submissions below!
Artist Statement: Adoption 101 is a course for adoptees from adoptees. The class not only helps prepare adoptees for the problems they will face, but it also connects adoptees from all around the world. In addition to teaching valuable lessons they will benefit from for the rest of their lives, the course is also a safe and accepting environment for sharing and hearing each other’s stories. Through the lessons and coursework, adoptees will gain newfound confidence in themselves, and in their ability to face adversity. Adoption 101 will educate as well as create new friendships and bonds that will be cherished for a lifetime.
Lila is a student at George Fox University in Newberg, OR. She plans to study elementary education.
Adoption 101 Essay
“Do you know your birth family?”, “Do you miss your mom?”. Sometimes just hearing these questions, make me think about being adopted. I was only 18 months when I was adopted so I didn’t have that emotional or mental connection to India or my biological family. Adoption is tricky at times, but it’s real. It an opportunity for families to be created, and for kids to find their true forever homes. Every family is full of ups and downs. My favorite quote is: “Family is like music, some high notes some low notes but always a beautiful song.” – Jesse Joseph. There are tricky situations where people don’t truly know how to respond to adoptees or adoptees to questions about being adopted.
From my perspective, adoption is like a permanent exchange program. As an adoptee, I was given an opportunity to live with people I just met, to learn their ways of life and adopt their culture, permanently. I know I struggle with issues of knowing who I am and what purpose I have in the world. Sometimes I wonder if I was truly a “mistake” but I don’t know who to talk to when I get these thoughts in my head. If I were to register for an Adoptee 101 course this Fall, I would have a lot of questions personally, but I would also really just want to hear how other adoptees feel about being adopted, how they get through the hard times, and how they answer similar questions. If there was a class that filled everyone in on the world of adoption, not only on how to adopt a child but also the many different perspectives of the adoption process, it would really broaden everyone’s understanding of what adoption is and how it affects a variety of people.
An example of a tricky situation where, if there was a better understanding of adoption, things would have gone more smoothly, includes when I was in a new class at school and the girl sitting next to me overheard a conversation between my friend and I reminiscing on our elementary school days.
My friend was reminding me that I was always the one who said, “Guess what? I’m adopted!” to every new person, we met. The girl who was sitting next to me immediately popped the question, “Wait, you’re adopted? I don’t believe you.” I was taken aback by this statement, she didn’t believe that I was adopted. I looked at my friend for her reaction and she looked at me with the same look of bewilderment that I was giving to this girl. I tried to play it off and responded with “Ok, cool.” She then came back with a stranger response — “Prove it.”
So, what do I do? Did I have to prove that I was adopted to this stranger that I just met? Do I just “prove” that I am adopted so she would get off my back? Or do I just let it go and ignore it for the rest of the class? Well, I decided to “prove” that I was adopted and showed her pictures of my family. But I felt very tense and attacked by this girl, even though that was probably not what she intended. I really didn’t need to prove anything to this girl, but if people knew how to react to people like this girl and also to adoptees, this situation would have been less tense.
The class setting wouldn’t be a lecture taught by one person, it would be a round table discussion where people would be able to freely talk and inform the group of their perspective on or questions about adoption. It would be an open door class where anyone could come in and just learn and talk about adoption, even if they’re not planning on being a hands-on part of the adoption process. I wouldn’t want to be told what adoption is by someone who is truly involved in the process. I would want to understand others’ views of adoption, not only my side as the adoptee. I would also want others to be informed about adoption. They don’t have to use what they learned in their lives after they are introduced to adoption, but even just hearing about it is helpful.
Theoretically, this class would be very helpful in real life. It’s very hard for many people to follow along or get excited to learn when there’s just someone teaching a new topic. This set-up of a round table discussion is welcoming and allows more people to be involved, and gives the desire to actually want to learn about a certain topic. Many colleges or universities could do very well if they put this in their curriculum.
- Adoptees want their adoptive parents to prepare emotionally and psychologically before they bring them home to become a family.
- The adoptee’s experience is REAL.
- The adoptee needs help to make sense of their “story.”
- Many adoptees struggle with issues of self-worth, shame, control and identity.
- Adoptees are in reunion whether they are formally searching or not.
- The adoptee’s desire to search is not a rejection of the adoptive parents.
- Adoptees want to belong. They want to connect and feel connected.
- Adoption is hard.
- Adoptees want adoptive parents to be their advocates (example: in school).
- Adoption is a lifelong process.
Alexa will complete the Thomas Jefferson 3+2 Occupational Therapy program, and will also study psychology at Villanova University. After graduation, she plans to become a pediatric occupational therapist. Alexa also wants to teach dance and, one day, open a studio of her own.
Artist Statement: In my dance video, I interpreted the “Adoptee 101” class as a place to learn about awareness, acceptance and identity. This idea stemmed from my experience at Holt Adoptee Camp. I performed a version of this dance during my last year of camp at the talent show as a tribute to my friends and counselors who helped me both understand my identity and created amazing memories. Adoptees would teach the “Adoptee 101” class because they can relate to the topics and share their own stories in the classroom. Also, I felt so comfortable at camp because everyone had at least one thing in common — adoption.
I incorporated a desk into the choreography to show both the classroom and physical “growth.” This choreography has themes of friendship, acceptance and identity, key topics to learn about if this class existed. The voices that say “You’re in the right place” in the song are my friends and fellow adoptees that I attended camp with. The papers I took out of the desk at the end of the video are my Holt Camp “Memory Books,” and are to demonstrate the memories that can be made through a class like this.
Learn more about the Holt Adoptee Scholarship Contest!
All domestic or international adoptees (adopted through any agency) may participate in the contest. Three adoptees will be awarded $500 towards an educational pursuit of their choice.