Reggie Dabbs was 8 years old when he learned the two people he thought were his parents were actually his foster parents.
“I thought nobody cared,” he said. “Don’t feel sorry for me. I can’t change my past, but I can change my future.”
The teen motivational speaker shared bits of his past during a Jan. 16 visit to Waupaca, where he spoke and entertained the school district’s middle and high school students.
That evening, he spoke again during a public rally at the high school.
Dabb’s visit was sponsored by the Waupaca Area Youth Network, a partnership of five Waupaca churches: Faith Community Church, First Assembly of God Church, Shepherd of the Lakes Lutheran Church, Trinity Lutheran Church and Victory Church.
His programs also included music.
As Dabbs played his soprano saxophone at Waupaca Middle School, students and staff sang the words of songs, such as Bruno Mars’ “Just the Way You Are.”
Dabbs compared life to a rollercoaster.
“Sometimes, you’re on top of the hill, and everything is great. Sometimes, you go down a hill and it’s not,” he said.
He described the darkness in his life after he found out he was in foster care.
That day, Dabbs left his school with the man and women he believed to be his father and mother, after a parent/teacher conference, and noticed the parents of his friends were younger than his parents were.
He asked them why they were old, and when they got home, his foster mother said, “I’m sorry. I’m old, because I’m not your mother.”
His foster father said, “And I’m not your father.”
Dabbs found out he had a brother and twin sisters.
“I learned that day my mom kept them,” he said.
Six years later, his foster mother said to him, “Baby, I hear you crying at night,” and told him, “Your mama gave you to me, because I was your mom’s favorite teacher in school.”
Dabbs told the students his real mother called the woman, who had been her favorite teacher, and asked her for help when she was unable to raise him.
Saying education and teacher involvement can help young people get what they need to be successful in the future, he then told all in attendance, “Clap for your teachers.”
Dabbs said education got him to where he is today.
He told the students to stay in school and to follow his example of not smoking cigarettes, doing drugs or getting drunk.
Among the phrases he shared were “Never give up,” and “I’ve got your back.”
Dabbs said there are students here who are hurting.
“If you just hold on, somebody is going to be a hero,” he said.