From foster care to pre-med: Parker student driven to success
JANESVILLE — Growing up as a foster child can be difficult.
Just ask Parker senior Dylan Zweifel, who has been in foster care for five years.
"Growing up in a foster home made me realize I want a better future for my family," Zweifel said. "Foster care has made me want to try as hard as I can. It's made me want to succeed more and not be like my parents."
Zweifel doesn't like to discuss the specifics of how he ended up in foster care but said it turned out to be what was best for him.
Now, he lives in Evansville with foster parents Kim Pope and Dennis Peabody. He said they are good people and are good to him.
"I have been with them for about a year," Zweifel said. "I was in a different foster home in Janesville before that. The program has made me better and more focused."
Zweifel said he didn't take school too seriously before he was put into foster care. Now, he wants to create an opportunity for himself to succeed.
"I've been by myself pretty much my whole life," Zweifel said. "I've made myself who I am today. I don't want my kids to go through what I've had to."
That drive made Zweifel decide to take school seriously. He got his grades up and got involved in school--playing football, running track, swimming, wrestling, joining the physics club and becoming a member of the Science National Honor Society.
The hard work paid off for Zweifel, and he plans to attend Marquette University in the fall to study pre-medical.
"Dylan has a great attitude," said Robert Eastman, Parker physics teacher and adviser for the physics club. "He works hard to complete the things he needs to do to be successful."
Zweifel chose pre-med after working for Janesville doctor Dan Peterson last summer and deciding he liked the field.
"I just can't wait to go to Marquette and start a new path," Zweifel said. "I'm happiest about going to a private school and look forward to the smaller class sizes."
Zweifel said because he is in the foster program and ranks fifth in his class, scholarships will help him pay for most, if not all of his education.
"He wants a better life and he knows he has to earn it," Eastman said. "He sets goals for himself and works hard to attain those goals."
Zweifel has worked at Woodman's Foods for more than two years and plans to continue working there throughout college.
"I think being in foster care, it has taught me that I have to work for everything and I appreciate it more. I have to pay for all my own stuff. A lot of my friends don't do that, so it's helped me to learn I need to work as much as I can."
Zweifel has one brother also in foster care. He said he plans to become a foster parent himself after college.
"It was pretty hard to get taken away in eighth grade," Zweifel said. "But they take you out of a bad situation and try to help you get into good situations."
As long as he keeps up what he is doing, he will succeed, Eastman said.
"I think this (experience) is what truly motivates Dylan to work harder," Eastman said. "People in situations similar to Dylan's tend to take one of two paths. One path keeps them where they are, living a mediocre life at best. The other path, which is much harder to travel, leads to a better life.
"Dylan has clearly taken the second path. He is working hard to make a better life for himself."
Zweifel's advice to underclassman is to try their hardest, not to give up when life gets difficult and to avoid the drama.
"Just looking at where I was before, I want to try the best I can to create opportunities to have a better life for my future kids," Zweifel said.