Madison Honeyman rewrites her history along with eventually teaching the subject!
“My career choice is [to become] a historian, or a history teacher for secondary education, so I can be that mentor that older kids can go to when they are struggling and want to get into college,” she said.
As someone who didn’t have a mentor until her junior year of high school, Madison recognizes the importance of having supportive adults in her life.
Enter Nebraska Children’s Connected Youth Initiative and partner, Central Plains Center for Services (CPCS). One of the best ways to bring out young people’s talents is to allow them to put their mentoring skills to the test – especially when, like Madison, they understand the importance of forging connections.
From there, CPCS – in partnership with Connected Youth Initiative and Beyond School Bells – created a paid internship for youth and young adults who experienced foster care and other challenges. Through these professional opportunities, young leaders can immerse themselves in hands-on career-building roles.
Madison works as a LEAP (Learn and Earn to Achieve Potential) intern at the Service, Leadership, & Collaboration Office at the University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO). LEAP is a strategy of Connected Youth Initiative that aims to increase postsecondary education enrollment and persistence for youth in Nebraska with systems experience. Her coach, Tanya Smith, immediately saw her potential and recommended her for the role.
When she isn’t working or speaking at conferences, Madison meets with Tanya. Tanya, along with Program Director Felipe Longoria, recognized Madison’s gifts.
Madison said, “Tanya and Felipe asked me to stay after a monthly meeting. She told me that the internship was about 15 hours per week, what I could expect, and [that it is] a leadership position. I was very interested!”
When we asked Madison how Felipe and Tanya selected her for the role, Madison said that her passion for speaking the truth, in addition to her advocacy work, has earned her a positive reputation.
“I am outspoken,” she said. “I feel like I talked the most in our monthly meetings. I am very spunky and energized, especially when we’d host events. I am always smiling and excited to do something!”
The Collaborative drives home a similar mission to Nebraska Children: to create positive change through community engagement! Through this job, Madison supports other young people who have experienced foster care and attend college.
Her responsibilities include working in campus student food pantry and providing support and community connections for UNO students who have experienced foster care.
Thanks to Madison’s coach, who partners with the department’s Assistant Director, Jeffrey Southall, Madison can now do what she does best – lift up others throughout the campus and community.
Madison has always been a force of nature, so Tanya knew she’d be a perfect fit. As a junior at the University of Nebraska Omaha, Madison is pursuing a major in History with a Criminal Justice minor. She attributes some of her success to her past role models as she becomes one herself.
Madison said that when she did find mentors, she was appreciative. “The teachers I surrounded myself with have encouraged me,” she said.
Madison said she encourages others who have survived tumultuous backgrounds to rewrite their past.
“There are so many stories; history repeats itself and is a continuum,” she said.
Madison didn’t want to repeat her family history of not attending college. She has succeeded admirably. As the first child of eight, Madison is pursuing her degree! But her plans don’t stop there.
One of her areas of passion is advocating for other young people who have experienced the foster care system.
We should mention that Madison’s academic achievements aren’t easy to achieve. Fewer than 3 percent of former foster youth attend college, often due to a lack of supports.
We and our partners wanted to address this gap by providing coaching, among other CYI services, which partners with former foster youth to achieve their educational and financial goals.
Madison said she not only rewrites her history, but she also possesses a burning urge to speak her truth.
“The urge for truth and honesty comes from my family origins,” she said. “I don’t like to admit I have qualities from my parents, but I think that I got honesty from my dad. His quote is, ‘If you ain’t got your word, you don’t have anything.’
Madison said she’s since gone on to create her own words to reflect her need for transparency, especially with a quote that resonates: “I’d rather be hurt with the truth than comforted with a lie.”
Madison said she revises her past by taking her father’s words and adapting them into her adage.
Madison said her desire to speak the truth emanates throughout her public speaking. During these engagements, she articulates challenging insights surrounding the foster care system.
“I want to be an advocate for kids struggling with their parents at home, so I’m still exploring my options. I may eventually write a young adult novel about my struggles, so my target audience can relate,” said Madison.
“I’ve always wanted to write a book, but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write in it,” she said.
Madison said that she values transparency simply because the truth is a straightforward path and relates to her love for history!
“If you lie about your story, then you have to remember it and continue going on. [My feelings] are the same in being a history teacher; I don’t want to be comforted that [in the U.S. we] were amazing people, and this is how the world is; I want to tell people the truth. The honesty came from when I was younger.”
Madison said that she wants to teach students with allegiance to the facts, even if they portray our nation in an occasionally unflattering light.
In addition to enjoying her work as a history buff and a youth advocate, Madison said she professionalizes herself with her internship.
“We work on our e-portfolio when we’re not helping with service; we put together our website, which we present at the end of the year. The website has my story, scholarships, community work, and so forth. The purpose of the site is to help me become more professionally prepared in the world,” said Madison.
In conjunction with sharing her foster care experience, Madison fills her already-busy schedule with faith-based, inclusive activism.
As if she isn’t productive enough with her internship, Madison attends conferences to relate and rewrite her past. Last fall, she went to an event in Lincoln and talked about her foster care experience at the NE Counseling Association, alongside Jessi Hedlund, CYI coach.
Madison was pleasantly unprepared for the audience’s outpouring of interest.
“I had so many people ask me questions about my experience,” she said.
After Madison shared her challenging stories as a child and youth in the foster care system, she was inundated afterward by adult professionals who wanted to do more to serve young people.
“People wanted to stay, ask questions until 4 p.m.!” said Madison.
“It was a Friday; their weekends were about to start, and the event ended at 3:15 p.m.!”
Best of all, Madison was able to help her sister, who is a senior in high school, and also in the foster care system. Although she and her sister have been out of touch, Madison said her former high school counselor attended the event.
After hearing Madison’s story, he was visibly moved and committed, like Madison, to rewriting history by supporting her sister.
“He didn’t realize the hoops I had to jump through. Before he came to the conference, he said, ‘I have to go and see [your sister].’ He’s this six-foot-four guy who’s crying and saying, ‘I had no idea.’”
Madison said that this counselor was skilled at his profession. Regardless of his competence, she said that young people in foster care struggle to speak out.
“I find it crazy that a counselor you had for four years in high school didn’t know what you’re going through. He now has the resources to help other kids like [my sister], not just me,” she said.
Madison said that this internship and her other experiences have taught her how to push and set boundaries.
Madison said, “I’m learning that in a leadership position, although you may feel like you don’t need help, you need to make a priority to ask for it, on behalf of others and your mental health.”
Due to her demanding schedule, Madison said that she sometimes feels overwhelmed, but after she struggled with medical issues, she learned to say no.
Today, Madison shows no signs of quieting down. Although she endures occasional anxiety before speaking engagements, she refuses to stop.
“I get so nervous; I have stage fright,” she said. “But whenever something is important, I try my very best to talk to myself beforehand, say, ‘This is your experience, and somebody else might need help.’” she said.
Above all, Madison seeks to reach others, no matter how many or few.
“I know a lot of people can’t relate, but there will always be that one person who does. It’s OK NOT to be OK! Hearing [my] story from a different person, you will think, ‘I’m not the only one going through that right now.’”
Madison said that speaking the truth has set her free.
“Even though I’m a poet, I never talked about what happened in the system until recently. I think [foster care] is a part of my story, and nobody can relate, not even my siblings,” she said.
“Even the kids in the same [group] home didn’t have the same experience. Because I’ve gone through everything I have, therapy, EMDR, struggled with mental health, I find it more of a comfort to speak and be vulnerable so other people can understand the depth of these issues and the obstacles that we go through to be the best we can be,” she said.
“When I speak about my experiences rather than writing them down when people hear the rawness, they can get more of an emphasis that way.”
Madison continues to exercise resiliency. “Having a bad experience at seven years old doesn’t mean I can’t be the person I am today,” she said.
Nebraska Children and our partners agree: it’s never too late to create a new history for yourself, and we are honored to play a part.