These days, Kimberly Alaric is mapping out her own flight plan for a bright future after a turbulent upbringing.
The second-year aviation student is using her experience as a former youth in care to help other kids in similar situations get on a path to success.
“Growing up in a small town in the Kootenays, there was not a lot of support for me or my family,” said Kimberly. “We lived in poverty. There was a substantial amount of neglect and emotional abuse. My parents are good people who struggle with depression and alcoholism. They haven’t always made great choices for our family. I knew from a young age that I didn’t want to continue that cycle. I needed more for myself and my two younger brothers. I wasn’t even 10 years old and felt that I was the responsible one making sure we had food to eat and a clean place to live. I was caring for my siblings, acting as their mother.”
Kimberly often thought how amazing it would be to fly in an airplane, but she thought it unlikely that a small-town girl who had no money for education and no support could ever become a pilot.
Resiliency and determination in the face of hardship are traits that Kimberly says kept her going. “I was in a dark place after I was sexually assaulted, barely in my teens. I received no support. No one believed me. I was bullied for speaking up. The lack of support from my parents forced me out of home. I had enough.”
For almost two years, Kimberly bounced around. She was taken in by a cousin who was in her early twenties and then was adopted by her friend’s family. After receiving devastating news about the state of her mother’s mental health, Kimberly moved back home for her brothers. About a year later, the three went into foster care. Eventually, Kimberly entered into a youth agreement with the Ministry of Children and Family Development. “It gave me the supports I needed to live independently. I found myself an apartment close to my brothers. I had two jobs – all while finishing high school.”
By the time she was 19 years old, relatives in the Okanagan had adopted her younger brothers. Kimberly found a place nearby and continued building a life for herself independently.
“My uncle loves planes and he enrolled my brothers in air cadets. One day, I had to drive them to cadets and ended up flying in a small plane — a dream come true! This solidified my decision to explore my passion for aviation. I was back up in the air two weeks later, working on my private pilot’s licence. Six months after that I was enrolled in Okanagan College’s commercial aviation diploma program. Here I am, a small-town girl who lived in poverty and in care, working towards my dreams. I’m able to attend school thanks to the Tuition Waiver Program my social workers helped me with. I wouldn’t be where I am without their hard work.”
The 22-year-old is set to take her commercial flight test later this month and hopes to have a job in the industry this time next year.
Kimberly is proud to be a member of the Okanagan youth advisory council. The council provides a critical youth perspective to inform the work of the ministry and works to alleviate the negative stigma about B.C.’s foster care system. Kimberly continues her work mentoring young people.
“I want to be a role model, a big sister. I also want to encourage young adults to take pride in who you are and what you have accomplished.”
Kimberly’s story is being told as part of B.C. Child and Youth in Care Week (June 3-9, 2019), which celebrates the diverse talents, accomplishments and resiliency of youth in and from care.