Mix of Heart, Strategy Lifts Youth

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While working on a brochure for Mohawk Industries, Echo Garrett heard many stories about the company’s then-vice president of marketing, Sam Bracken. Moved by his life story, she eventually co-authored a book with him, titled “My Orange Duffel Bag: A Journal to Radical Change,” chronicling his journey from homelessness in Las Vegas to football stardom at Georgia Tech.

Both Garrett and Bracken share an interest in helping foster care youth. The nation’s foster care system serves more than 400,000 young people — a quarter of them ages 14 to 17 — with approximately 20,000 individuals turning 18 and becoming legally emancipated from foster services every year. Atlanta-based advocacy group EmpowerMEnt indicates that nearly half of teens leaving foster care at 18 lack high school diplomas. Prior to emancipation, 40 percent have become teenage parents, while a quarter have already experienced homelessness.

“We just didn’t want to write a book,” Bracken said. “We wanted to change the face of at-risk kids, especially teenagers who are aging out of foster care, or kids that have been involved in juvenile justice and struggling.”

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