2022 Scholarship Recipient

Landen Oba 

2022 All-Star Scholarship Recipient

Introduce yourself to the UMPS CARE Community. Where are you from, where are you going to school, and have you chosen a major?

Hi, my name is Landen Oba, I am 18 years old, and I am a native born Coloradan! Go Avalanche! (Colorado NHL team!)

I am going to McDaniel College in Westminster, Maryland. It is one of the only schools in the state of Maryland that has a five -year social work program. I will be taking four years for undergraduate clinical social work, and then, hopefully, a year- long graduate level class. It is an honor to be a Green Terror! (Our school mascot)

By majoring in clinical pediatric social work, I can help children who have gone through trauma similar to mine as a young child.

How did you find out about the UMPS CARE All-Star College Scholarship?

I found out about this scholarship from my parents and school counselor, who was also my wonderful history teacher for all four years in high school. While pondering how I would pay for college, I applied for outside scholarships. Even with the extremely generous financial aid that I had received, I was still “in the red,” with roughly $10,000 left to pay off.

This is where UMPS CARE came in. My college counselor, Scott Madden, actually told my mother about this once-in-a-lifetime scholarship that I should apply for. Scott has helped troubled teens get into their dream colleges for almost 40 years; he’s really incredible. So thanks to him, and my mom, I applied for the UMPS CARE scholarship. (I made a bet with Scott that I wouldn’t receive any more scholarships outside of McDaniel, and once I heard I had been selected to be one of the two awardees for the All-Star College Scholarship, I told Scott. I now owe him, supposedly, $25, haha.)

Tell us about your time in foster care and your adoption story.

 My early childhood was tumultuous to say the least. My (biological)  mother had been a high-school dropout due to drug and other substance abuse. At the age of 21, she had me, her first child. Almost immediately after I was born, my mother affiliated herself with a number of men with an assortment of felonies and criminal charges. When I was 3, my sister was born, and my mother married. My new stepfather was abusive to me and my sister, until one day, my mother finally realized that he was too abusive for her taste. After a neighbor had filed a report about me and my sister having severe bruises all over our body, (Child Protective Services) came to pick me and her up, and we were placed into foster care. This would be the first time I was put into foster care.

My sister and I stayed in foster care for about a year, until we were returned to our mother’s care. However, the peace did not last long. Her abusiveness and negligence became worse than before.  When she was found out to be more negligent than before, she was arrested. In order to escape prison for child negligence, she made a plea bargain with the court that I would be given up into foster care. In November of 2009, I met my new foster parents, and a month later, I went home with them.

Although they were my foster parents from age 5 until November 11, 2017, a few months after my 13th birthday, I quickly took to calling them Mom and Dad. They have been by side ever since, and they have never stopped loving me. Any person can become pregnant, but only a select few can earn the title of mother or father. In this case, my parents have gone above and beyond the call of duty, and I have become so close to them, that I sometimes think of them as my biological parents. 

Mom and Dad, who had been trying to conceive a child, found out that they could not biologically, so as a result, Mom and Dad started the process of looking to adopt a child in 2001. My mother, with my father proofreading the letters, wrote to every single state. They even looked overseas, in Poland, Russia, France, and Germany, but things never worked out. Every reply letter essentially said, “Sorry, we do not have a little boy who fits your description.” I still don’t understand why, but Mom and Dad were adamant about adopting a little boy. Failure after failure after failure plagued them, yet Mom and Dad continued to write furiously. Mom once told me that had she and Dad were on the verge of giving up. However, little did my mother know that on her last attempt, which was calling an adoption agency in Colorado, would lead her to hitting the jackpot. 

In late October, or early November of 2008, after a very laborious day at work, my mother called an adoption agency in Colorado. She she was inquiring about abut another young boy, who actually, looked somewhat similar to me. However, the social worker who answered the phone (his name was Gabriel, like the angel that told the Virgin Mary about Jesus) said, “No the boy you are calling about is no longer available, but we do have another young boy that is extremely special. His file came in today, so it will take a few days for his file to be processed through the entire system, but would you like me to make a note if you are interested to meet him?” My mother immediately said yes. Right after the phone call, my mother called my father at work to tell him the good news, and later the next day, she received a picture of me in her email at work. 

My parents knew at that moment, I was to be their son, and they were to be my parents. Mom describes the feeling as a wonderfully, inexplicably, feeling of exultation beyond human understanding, as if the angels were singing in her heart. Later on the evening that Mom had discovered the news that I was available, she and Dad went to choir practice. The choir director had just begun rehearsing Handel’s Messiah, and the one song he started off with was For Unto Us A Child is Given. The song is about the Angel Gabriel telling Virgin Mary that she had been blessed with the child of God, Jesus. Just as the choir began to practice the song, my mother broke into tears of happiness, at long last feeling hope for the future. On December 23, 2009, I flew from Denver to Baltimore, and the rest, they say, is history. 

My adoptive mother works for Montgomery County as an architect and planner. My father works for the Naval Research Lab. He is a mathematician working on how much noise submarines make under water.

What are some of your interests/ passions?

My friends call me “Boomer Boy” because I have the soul of an 80 year old hippie, which in all honesty, I feel like is the best hippie. 

I was reading through the bios of other students on the UMPS CARE website and saw how many aligned with mine, especially activism and social justice. I love to read, write, collect old coins, old watches, and I build airplane models. I love history, learning about history, and having discussions about moral philosophy. 

Furthermore, giving back is also important to me. Throughout high school, I found opportunities to participate in extracurricular community service. However, it wasn’t until this past year and a half that I really became a leader and stepped up to the challenge! In late 10th grade, I was inducted into the National Honor Society, which focuses on academic integrity, community service, character, and leadership. Throughout the remainder of that year, I helped organize extracurricular events geared towards the Silver Spring community, in neighborhoods surrounding my school. These events included coat drives, children’s clothing drives, food drives, and raising funds for housing assistance. By 11th grade, my peers had encouraged me to run for election as president of our NHS chapter because of our successful community drives the year before. Sustained by my peer’s confidence, I introduced a project to increase our NHS efforts to serve the needy, despite it being the height of the pandemic.

I like talking to people, listening to others’ points of view. Hearing other points of view is how we learn. I have some necklaces from the Lakota People from when I went on a volunteer trip to the Pine Ridge Reservation during my senior year. They are one of the poorest tribes and nations and getting to hear native speakers talk about their troubles was incredibly impactful – I learned why it’s important to treat Mother Earth as a precious resource. This trip was about the original meaning of ‘remember’ to ‘re-member’ – to put back something that has been lost. That trip got me thinking about my activism in general and how I could give back to the community. 

How has being adopted shaped you and your goals for the future?

The person I am today, well, it’s a credit to Mom and Dad. When I was first brought home, the one thing that all the therapists said was there’s no way he is adopted, he looks just like you, he is just like you (Mom and Dad). 

I feel closer to my adopted family than I ever will to my biological family. They are the kindest, most caring people I have ever known. I was a five year old with a scroll of trauma and diagnoses who was acting out, but they said we are going to take this child and make him a diamond in the rough, into a hope diamond. 

I get some of my activism from  Mom and Dad, but a lot of it comes from the fact that this isn’t the world I want to live in. I want to be on the front lines of mental health, fighting for those that have little-no voice or say in receiving support systems they need. Furthermore, the state of the world, though depressing as it may be, there will always be a glimmer of hope. We only need to continue to hope and use every possible resource available to fix the systemic racism, antiquated social contructs, global conflict, and effects of climate change that haunt us daily.

What does this scholarship mean to you and your education?

When you told me that I had received the scholarship, I was blown away by a lack of words, and that is not easy to do! What this means to me, is everything. I get to become a part of an awesome organization that doesn’t just help troubled teens and foster youth like myself, but children of all ages. I hadn’t heard of any organizations like this, and I had kind of lost hope in people. However, when I learned there was an organization fighting for my people, the foster children, the adopted, the neglected, the traumatized, and those who suffer mentally, some of my faith was restored. 

Until I was adopted by my parents, I did not have a strong support system that I could rely on and I’m grateful that the UMPS CARE family is now part of my support system. I know l will be able to become what I’ve always wanted to be. I’ve known since a young age, as a 5-year old in foster care, that I wasn’t going to be an engineer, architect, or football player. I wanted to be a social worker or therapist. 

This scholarship really gives me a boost forward, and to the entire UMPS CARE foundation and committee, I will always be grateful. I would also like to to thank the donors to the program, who ensure that UMPS CARE can continue its mission, serving the world one “pitch” at a time. 

Hear Landen in his own words in this VIDEO below!