Ava Vo: She spent four years in foster care. Now, she wants to help others.

When Springboro High School senior Ava Vo was 14, a social worker came to get her and her three younger siblings and take them into foster care.

“She walked in the door,” Vo said. “And she said, you have one hour to pack up your stuff.”

Vo said the social worker literally set a timer on her phone. Neither Vo nor her siblings had luggage, so they threw their items into trash bags. They tried to grab as many necessities as they could, but her youngest sibling was eight years old, and everyone was hysterical.

“She had told me that she understands how difficult that must be,” Vo said of the social worker. “But I remember thinking in my head, she doesn’t understand. There was no way she could understand how we’re feeling. I think that is really what has driven me to be the social worker that can say that she understands.”

Vo said she knew her family was different at around 10, and a social worker began working with the family when she was 12.

“Up until the moment I was placed in a care, I never realized how serious this was,” Vo said.

Now, Vo is headed out of foster care and into her first year at Miami University, where she plans to study social work. She remained in foster care her entire high school career, moving into three different homes. Two of her siblings were placed into two homes, so she and her siblings were briefly separated.

She plans to continue living with Jess and David Conger, the third family she and her siblings were placed with.

“I am super happy here and incredibly thankful for everything they do for me,” Vo said of the Congers.

Springboro High School communications director Scott Marshall said he was impressed by Vo’s optimism and grace while undergoing an intense hardship.

“Not only did Ava achieve outstanding academic accolades at SHS, but Ava is committed to using the knowledge gained through her experience to help those facing similar hardships,” Marshall said.

Vo received the 2024 Franklin B. Walter All-Scholastic Award from the Warren County Educational Service Center, and the annual Springboro High School Patricia McCandless Memorial Scholarship at the May 15 Senior Awards Ceremony. The scholarship provides a one-year, $7,000 scholarship to two graduating Springboro High School seniors.

Vo said she hopes to be one of the people working in foster care who can show kids that she does understand what they’re going through. She said there were many times where she felt no one cared about her and her siblings.

Vo said she also wants to show kids that being in foster care doesn’t define them.

Vo said being in foster care was traumatic at times, but it also brought her many experiences she wouldn’t have had otherwise, such as winning a $500 cash prize for a speech she gave to the Springboro Optimists Club about her experience.

She said she’s looking forward to life once she’s out of foster care. She won’t have to sit down with a social worker, it’ll be easier to go on trips and her family can post pictures with her.

“I’m just excited to be normal,” Vo said.

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