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Cheyney University Student Gets a Great Start to the New Year After Celine Dion Foster Child TV Special

December 27, 2013

Cheyney University junior Thomas McRae poses in front of Universal Studios in California where he recently was awarded a $10,000 scholarship after taping a television special with singer Celine Dion

Cheyney University junior Thomas McRae poses in front of Universal Studios in California where he recently was awarded a $10,000 scholarship after taping a television special with singer Celine Dion

Cheyney University's Thomas McRae is counting his blessings!  The junior psychology major flew to California this month in an all-expenses-paid-trip-of-a-lifetime to be featured on Celine Dion's television special "A Home for the Holidays" which aired on CBS twice over the holidays.  His adoptive mother, Joi Morris, and adoptive brother, Dawson Hylton, accompanied him and bonded with other foster children who were in the audience.  

Dion, a five-time Grammy winner, wasn't the only one championing the cause to make dreams come true for former and current foster children.  Following the special, which featured a segment on McRae, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, which sponsored the show, awarded McRae a $10,000 Fostering a Future scholarship which he plans to use at Cheyney.

"I was crying," McRae admits.  "They didn't warn us. We were sitting there after it was all over and a star actor from the CSI television series came and gave it to me on behalf of the Dave Thomas Foundation," he recalls. "I looked at my brother and I just started cyring because i couldn't believe it. We were all shocked," he exclaimed.

Thomas, the late founder of the Wendy's fast food chain, was himself a foster child who was adopted when he was just a baby.  He established his foundation in 1992 to try to make a difference for foster children and former foster kids, like McRae.  While he isn't used to getting gifts, let alone a sizeable one like the Foundation gave to him, McRae is grateful to Thomas and his vision.

"He's an example of how someone who, just because he made it big, didn't forget where he came from," McRae says.  "I plan to be do that in 5-10 years and be able to award something to those (foster kids) who are overcoming. I see myself in the same position one day."

McRae's childhood isn't fairytale material. His mother gave him up when he was just a month old. He was shuffled from one house to another, accidentally got shot in one of those homes when he was 10, and lived in 22 different homes before being adopted by his best friend's family.

The foster system turned out to be his ticket to an internship on Capitol Hill last summer where the ambitious McRae worked under Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland for the Congressional Coalition on Adoptions Institute's Foster Youth Internship Program.  In August, the Washington Post featured McRae's story after the intern spoke before the House and Senate regarding Foster Care policy proposals. Shortly thereafter, CNN travelled to Cheyney University to interview him and his story was carried on television and on the web.  Soon, Grace Community Church in Baltimore, MD invited him to speak at their Orphan Awareness Sunday.

"I talked about faith and gave youth an encouraging word," he says.  "I told them to continue to stay focused and to keep God first in everything that they do and everything will fall in place according to his plan.

McRae, already successful at beating the odds, has set short-term and long-term goals for himself and he's determined to reach them all. The $10,000 will help fund his education. When it comes to 2015, he can already see himself walking across that stage getting his diploma--something that will make him and his adoptive family very proud.