Friday, December 22, 2006

20 foster silbings applaud Timmy's high school graduation

Siblings helped him clear hurdles -
Foster parents also guided Dunbar grad
Ogawa, Jillian. Lexington Herald-Leader, May 24, 2006, pg. E8.

Senior Timmy Lee Bidwell had a lot of strikes against him: At 4 years old, he was diagnosed with a behavior disorder, and 10 years later, his mother died.

But yesterday, he expected as many as 20 siblings to celebrate his graduation from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School.

The siblings were his foster brothers and sisters, encouraging him to finish high school and continue onto his career.

"No matter what background you come from, it doesn't mean you have to stay in it," Bidwell said. "You can overcome and become a better person."

Bidwell has lived with his foster parents, the Rev. Willie Howard, 64, of First Baptist Church in Ripley, Ohio, and Betty Howard, 62, since he was 4. His birth mother, who was ill and blind, gave up her parental rights because she could not care for Bidwell.

She died at Christmastime when Bidwell was 14, Betty Howard said.

"But the death of his mom made him stronger; it made him want to achieve," Howard said.

Soon after, Bidwell transferred from Martin Luther King Academy to Dunbar in his freshman year. But the transition was a challenge. Bidwell said there were many peers who would tease him, and he would lose his temper.

He said the Howards, school counselors, his foster siblings and his biological siblings encouraged him to overcome the peer pressure.

Her husband advised Bidwell to "put your head up and look past them," Betty Howard said.

The people who started teasing him eventually dropped out of school, Bidwell said. Then, during his sophomore year, he made the honor roll.

"I started hanging around a good crowd that had a positive influence," Bidwell said. "They helped me believe I could go on and achieve big goals."

He plans to attend Bluegrass Community & Technical College and then transfer to Eastern Kentucky University, where he will prepare for a career in law enforcement.

"He became more mature, more responsible, and he wanted to please us more," Betty Howard said. "He told us how grateful he was to have a family to call his own."


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