Junior Tori Wichman presents her policy at a congressional briefing. Tori Wichman | Courtesy
Junior Tori Wichman presents her policy at a con­gres­sional briefing. Tori Wichman | Courtesy

Having grown up in foster homes, junior Tori Wichman, member of the track and field team, expe­ri­enced the foster care system’s many short­comings firsthand. Because of this, Wichman developed a deep passion from a young age for helping other children in foster care. It is her dream to fight biases that keep foster children from thriving.

“After growing up in the foster care system I realized that it is a system with great inten­tions; but it leads children to fail, and since investing in children is the same as investing in the future, I know I want to cul­tivate some type of reform or make some kind of change within the system,” Wichman said in an email.

Now, her dreams are being realized. This past summer, Wichman interned with the Con­gres­sional Coalition on Adoption Insti­tution, better known as CCAI, in Wash­ington, D.C. There, she wrote a policy that she pre­sented to Con­gress and White House policy staffers. The policy empha­sized pro­viding foster children with an advocate for their best interests and on elim­i­nating stereo­types by cre­ating a national awareness day for foster children. Wichman said the neg­ative stereo­types pro­jected on foster children dis­courage them from reaching their full potential. This psy­cho­log­i­cally-proven phe­nomenon is known as stereotype threat.

According to Promises2Kids, a non­profit orga­ni­zation ded­i­cated to improving the lives of foster children, less than 50 percent of children in foster care graduate high school and less than 3 percent com­plete a bachelor’s degree. During Wichman’s time in the foster care system, she was told that she would become what the sta­tistics pre­dicted — une­d­u­cated, unem­ployed, a single mother, a drug addict, or on welfare.

“Unfor­tu­nately, all of those char­ac­ter­istics make sense when one looks at the sta­tistics of foster children,” Wichman said in an email. “This infu­riated me, but also made me pas­sionate about improving the foster care system and inspiring current and future foster youth to do the same. The sta­tistics in regards to foster children are very sad­dening, but they do not have to be.”

Wichman herself has proved that children in foster care can succeed. Andrew Towne, head coach of cross country and track and field, said he has never had a student as thorough as Wichman. He said she does any­thing she needs to be suc­cessful, including during her time in Wash­ington, D.C.

“It was not just another summer internship, it was some­thing that touched her,” Towne said. “I have no doubt she will do really well in that field.”

When Wichman came to Hillsdale, she antic­i­pated becoming a family coun­selor for foster or adopted youth and their fam­ilies. Since then, however, she has decided to pursue policy in order to under­stand and be able to advocate for changes in the foster youth system.

Wichman has also vol­un­teered with Children’s Lantern, a non­profit orga­ni­zation that helps orphans and children in foster care.

“Tori wants to see every child get what they need to thrive because there were people in her life that helped her rise up to the level she is,” said Adam Tracy, co-director of Children’s Lantern, in an email. “She is equipping herself and the people around her to gain passion for the kids. She is using her voice to change the world.”

Wichman credits her family, coaches, and church for sup­porting her in her work.

“God’s goodness and granting of my family, mentor, coaches, and church has equipped me to get where I am,” Wichman said in an email.