GNA Success Stories – Bridgett Kinlaw

Get to know Bridgett Kinlaw

“As a foster child growing up all throughout the Nanticoke area, I started and finished at GNA. I moved in and out of foster care until my senior year: twelve homes in twelve years, and abuse in all but one.

As a kid in the foster system, it was a rough upbringing. I saw every school in the district from 2nd grade through senior year. For me, the foster system was a horrible experience: I was gay and it wasn’t allowed. I was hit. I needed behavioral and trauma treatment, but not everyone is equipped for that as a foster. There was one lady I stayed with as an emergency in Scranton; she was super nice. I’m friends with her now, and she still helps me a lot. As a woman, I’m so grateful. And thank God for a few teachers for keeping my secret and helping to raise me, too: Mrs. Kaminski, Ms. Wilczewski, Mrs. Helmecki, Ms. Stelma, Ms. Muench, Ms. Lobrutto–they probably don’t even remember my name, but the impact they had on me and the kindness they showed me is something I carry with me daily and all over the country. I walked around school very proud and like I had a normal life.
When I got thrown out of my adoptive home in 11th grade, I never went back. That was the last time I was hit.
Although I moved from home to home from elementary through high school, I overcame and graduated from GNA with honors and Wilkes-Barre Area Vocational Center with honors and a certificate in medical assisting. I have since put myself through college for business administration, and now work as a job coach for intellectually disabled individuals. I’m certified to do anything needed in PA as far as the intellectually disabled are concerned: group homework, day active programs, home health, school supports, hospitals, geriatrics, dementia, etc. It’s all I know. I spent my entire youth studying and working in the department. I help people every day with what I’ve learned over time.
It’s definitely not talked about enough. They shut down several centers recently. Where do you think the people who stayed there went? Right back into the community. So now we’re left with an extraordinary number of intellectually disabled folks and not enough support, or space, or programs–I could go on all day. I.D.D. kids whose parents die have nothing but the state now, unless they come from a great family and have supports. It’s a national crisis. That’s why what I do is so important to me.
Most importantly, I’m now a foster parent. I’ve fostered five teens and children of all ages and backgrounds, and adopted one. My home is open and is a place of warmth for any child who needs it. And no child will ever be hit here.
I find myself to be more relatable than inspirational. I have experienced tough situations and then worked past them. I want my story to help and guide others; I want others to feel inspired by my motivation to succeed with the exact hand of cards I was dealt. No matter my background, I found my place and gifts in this world and used them to help others.  I want the youth today to know that each and every one of them serve a purpose in this world. Each person carries a key to their own success and needs to know there’s a time and a place to use it. Never be afraid to make mistakes and try again and again until it’s right. Help each other, and make healthy relationships when you’re young: these things will benefit you the most when you’re older and looking for resources and paths to get started. Success is everywhere: if it’s not where you’re at now, try again and find another place.”
Bridgett Kinlaw, 2015
Job Coach for the Intellectually Disabled
Direct Support Professional