May is National Foster Care Month, a time to raise awareness of the more than 380,000 children and youth under 18 in the foster care system in the U.S. During this time people are encouraged to get involved as adoptive parents, volunteers, mentors, and employers. PRIDE Industries has an established program specifically designed to provide foster youth with employment soft skills through the PRIDE Youth Services. One of our interns, Kate, shares her story.
Kate, 16, is an Intern at PRIDE’s headquarters in Roseville, CA. She provides clerical assistance to the Legal and Human Resources departments working 22 hours a week. “It is such a blessing; this is something I can put down as work experience and will help open doors,” says Kate. The paid internship is for 90 days with the option to renew. The experience is more than a job; it will help Kate develop employment, people, and appropriate-on-the-job skills so that once she leaves the foster care system she can get a job and make progress toward a self-sufficient adulthood. “Kate is so smart, such a diligent worker, and she has so much potential,” says Christine McKenzie, General Counsel and Kate’s supervisor. “She is doing such a stellar job!”
Despite a difficult past, Kate graduated from high school earlier than expected, which is why she is able to participate in the internship. Recently Kate’s case manager at PRIDE helped her enroll in college. Soon she will begin attending general education classes to work toward a brighter future. “I always knew people went to college, but not people like me,” says Kate. “I never thought I would graduate high school, let alone enroll in college.” Kate has not selected a major, but has always had a passion for working with children. After her experience at PRIDE she intends to help the community and have a meaningful career where she can help others.
Life has not always been easy for Kate; she got involved with drugs and alcohol at a young age. Now she is in recovery in a Koinonia Group Home, dedicated to provide the highest quality treatment foster care, adoption and family service programs available for children, youth and their families whose special needs can be met through services delivered, supervised and supported by professional agency staff. “For a long time I never thought I would live past 18,” says Kate. Who now looks forward to that milestone. Many of the adolescents, specifically young girls, who come to the group home, have experienced horrible things such as abuse, neglect, gang violence, prostitution or abusive relationships. Living through such traumatic experiences at such a young age changes one’s outlook on the world and other people, but Kate wants to help others believe. “Ultimately you have the choice to come out of that or wallow in it,” says Kate. “I don’t want to see anyone give up what could be a really beautiful, spectacular life because they don’t think they are worth anything better.”
The internship and participation in PRIDE Youth Services and the Kaleidoscope for Youth Success Program (K.E.Y.S.) has given Kate hope for a better future, and a glimpse into what could be a great adult life. She plans to share her story with fellow foster youth entering the Koinonia program. “If I plant that seed of hope maybe I won’t see it grow, but I want to let them know that they are still worth something,” says Kate. “They are all so capable of wonderful things. We have our struggles, but that only makes us more beautiful at the end. I want them to know that.”
PRIDE’s Youth Services Program currently has 26 interns who work at PRIDE and in the community. Several former interns were hired by PRIDE and at other businesses in the community. Generous donations to PRIDE Industries Foundation help fund the paid work experience internships, including emancipating foster youth.