On January 4, 1997, a teen mom secretly gave birth to a baby girl in her grandparents' bathroom, placed her in a plastic bag and abandoned the newborn in a deserted building in Philadelphia. Fast forward 18 years and that baby, now 18 herself, is celebrating her acceptance to Cabrini College, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Sunday, July 12.
Valery Swope's application essay was a beautiful poem she penned about her experience growing up in the foster care system. She and her older sister, Jaylynn, lived with their grandparents Leroy and Linda Swope until they sadly passed away in 2005. Valery was only eight at the time. She went on to live in various foster care homes, some better than others. When one of her foster fathers sexually assaulted her, she ran away from home.
"I want people to read my story and say: 'Wow, she can still do it. Maybe I can do it, too,'" Swope told The Inquirer.
She went on to live in various residential facilities and also briefly reunited with her mother, Shannon Swope, who served jailtime after pleading guilty to attempted murder of her daughter. Despite these obstacles, Valery worked hard in the classroom; she stayed late and studied on weekends to get her work done.
When she graduated from high school on June 25, her sister, her ex-boyfriend and his mother, three FBI agents, a child services supervisor and a child advocate from the Public Defender's Office were there to cheer her on. So was police officer Robert Varley, whom Valery is named after.
Varley found Swope that winter night when she was abandoned. He took her to the hospital and even gave her a teddy bear. The two lost touch over the years but reconnected earlier this year when Varley and his wife took her to dinner and gifted her with a second teddy bear.
Watch Varley and Swope speak about their emotional reunion below:
"The experiences [Valery] has been through and the depths of her pain are what motion pictures are made from," Megan Hannah, Swope's guidance counselor, wrote in her letter of recommendation. "Only this is real. She is real."