NEW YORK - Some of Ta'Nika Gibson's fondest memories of growing up were performing in her school musicals.
"I just loved the arts, and I just loved going to school," Gibson said. "It was my escape from my home life."
It was an escape from her abusive upbringing in foster care.
"I always thought, 'Education—education was the key, was going to be what was going to save me, was going to be my way out."
She earned a scholarship to the prestigious MacDuffie School in Massachusetts but came close to not being able to see it through.
"The home I was living in, that mother passed away. And that meant I was going to be placed back in foster care. Which to me was like a death sentence," Gibson said. "The probation officer told me if you find a guardian, there's a possibility you could remain at the school."
She told her school's faculty about the situation, and much to her surprise, the headmistress signed up as her new guardian.
"At 17, I met my forever family," Gibson said with a smile. "They told me within a few months that they loved me, and my father specifically said, 'I love you unconditionally.' And I had never been told that before. And to this day it just means the world to me."
But it wasn't until college when things changed officially.
"I believe it was Christmas freshman year they asked if they could adopt me," Gibson said. "I was speechless."
Now she's speechless for a whole new reason. Gibson just made her Broadway debut covering for several roles, including Diana Ross, in "Ain't Too Proud: The Life and Times of the Temptations."
Gibson said that she doesn't think she would have made it to Broadway this early in her career without her new parents. She is telling her story now to support You Gotta Believe, a nonprofit that promotes the adoption of older teenagers.
"Many of our kids are 18, 19, 20 who have been sort of overlooked in the system," said Mary Keane, the group's executive director. She said it is never too late to give someone a forever home like Gibson's.
"They just need somebody to be there for them," Keane said.
Somebody like the Gibsons, who've been Ta'Nika's biggest cheerleaders.
"[They're always] telling me, 'You can do it, you are talented, you are smart, you are hardworking,'" Gibson said.
And for someone who says no one ever told her that growing up, Gibson said, "it's been life-changing."