By Phil Walzer

Melvin Roy sticks to his dreams.

He overcame the turmoil of living in four foster homes during high school to enroll at Old Dominion University in 2018.

As a freshman, he founded Foster-U, which seeks to support youth in the foster care system.

This month, he organized March for Our Care, an event on Kaufman Mall that blended foster care awareness, a walk, donations for foster children and a performance by ODU's Blue Diamonds, a stomp-and-shake team. COVID delayed his plans for the event two years ago, but he didn't give up on his vision.

Next month, Roy will graduate with a bachelor's degree in human services. Only 3% of foster youth end up with a college diploma.

"I want to change that," said Roy, who hopes to turn Foster-U into a for-profit agency focused on online mentoring after he graduates. "I want to show youth in care what's possible after high school."

Roy tries to take a positive view to his time in foster care.

Some families "didn't grant me the space I needed to grow or the support to make sure I could push through to the finish line." But the experience "changed me for the better," he reflected.

"Even though I was going through a really hard time, it made me more empathetic and pushed me to help others who are going through the same thing."

At ODU, he switched majors from political science to criminal justice to human services, which "fit perfectly with everything I had done."

Roy served as vice president of the Student Government Association in 2020-21. The experience, he said, sharpened his time-management and people skills. "I was managing eight directors from different committees, making sure they were on top of their duties and still staying on top of mine."

He received ODU's Evon-Broderick Award for Community Engagement and Service in 2020 and the Ellen Neufeldt Leader of the Year Award this spring.

Roy also pursued his passion during a summer internship with the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute in 2020. He wrote a federal policy report advocating for a government-financed trust fund for 18- to 21-year-olds who were in foster care. "Once they age out of the system," he said, "they might not have money for food or a stable place to stay."

The highlight for Roy was presenting his proposal to a group including federal officials and then-First Lady Melania Trump.

He envisions a career in politics, but his next step is a master's degree in divinity from Regent University. Roy already started graduate classes this semester.

He'll be in Washington this summer for a two-month internship with U.S. Rep. Karen Bass, a Democrat from California who founded the Congressional Caucus on Foster Youth.

"It's right in my wheelhouse," Roy said. "I'm excited. All the connections I make this summer are going to shape the rest of my life."

Read more about Melvin Roy in the summer issue of Monarch magazine.

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