Articles

Beating The Odds With UMFS

Michaela Howell, 16, went from having her world turned upside down to winning an award for academic achievement in less than a year, with help from UMFS.

Loss is difficult for everyone. Multiple losses can be overwhelming. For Michaela Howell, then 15, the death of her father and hospitalization of her mother made her lose her balance but, with the help of UMFS, she was soon able to right herself.

Michaela came to UMFS after being hospitalized three times for mental health problems and being deemed “out of control.” In addition to losing her parents, she had no relatives who could handle her and had been taken away from her neighborhood, thus losing friends and classmates as well.

After completing Grafton’s residential program, Michaela came to UMFS, which placed her in the foster home of Don and Deb Libera. The Liberas are experienced foster parents, having been home to five foster children before taking in Michaela, in July 2013.

In less than a year, Michaela was back on her feet. She is doing well in school and is an active part of her community. She takes guitar lessons and has been actively involved with a teen writing club, a book club and multiple church-related groups despite taking — and doing well in — a heavy workload of high school classes. She is also on the home-school yearbook committee, and is working with other teens on a movie project.

Her remarkable progress led her UMFS Foster Care Social Worker, Marisol Collazo, to nominate Michaela for the Beat the Odds Phoenix Award, which was presented to Michaela in June, along with a laptop computer.

But, best of all, Michaela is about to have a family again. The Liberas are going to adopt her. “My wife and I are very proud of Michaela and her great progress on multiple fronts,” Don said. “We believe she is well-deserving of the Beat the Odds Phoenix Award.”