It makes me happy to help other people—especially so kids don’t have to go through what I went through.
Al Gorton ’13 first met his father at the age of 15. The man brought a map of Hershey, Pa., and photographs of his family and the local high school. “He talked about his family—pretty much trying to sell himself to me,” remembers Al. “Because that’s what you do when you are looking to adopt an older youth.”
This was the first day of a happy ending for Al that so many other children in our nation’s foster care system don’t experience. “I was taken away from my biological parents when I was just 8 years old. I was a ward of the state from 1997 until 2005—bounced from foster homes to group homes,” recalls Al. After eight placements—none of which lasted more than five years and most continued only a few months—Al was wiser about the world and more sensitive to the plight of others in the same situation.
In high school, Al got his first taste of political advocacy as a participant in the Pennsylvania YMCA Youth and Government program. “It makes me happy to help other people—especially so kids don’t have to go through what I went through,” he explains.
At Elizabethtown, Al chose to major in political science to equip himself for a life of advocacy. He also began volunteering for the Pennsylvania Partnership for Children (PPC). Now on PPC’s Porchlight Project Leadership Council, Al’s helping set the agenda for the organization’s efforts. In this role, he recently was on the front lines of a public campaign supporting the passage of Pennsylvania’s Children in Foster Care Act. “It’s a bill of rights for foster care that touches on some of the most important challenges affecting these children, including educational stability; freedom from corporal punishment, abuse and harassment; and full access to legal representation,” he explains of the legislation that was sponsored by Pa. Representative Phyllis Mundy, of Luzerne County, and signed into law in November 2010.
Al—who is considering a career in international child welfare policy—believes Elizabethtown is preparing him for his future by opening his eyes to the value of political discourse. “College is a place where you meet people from all over and exchange ideas,” he says. “I’ve grown a lot here in my give and take.”