Spring is an exciting time of the year for many teens: graduation and independence are right around the corner. However, for many teens transitioning out of foster care, this juncture presents a huge set of challenges. There are some 400,000 teens and youths in the U.S. foster care system. Many youths leave the system without the supports needed to help them navigate through early adulthood. Many lose their way when they try to make this transition. It’s like walking a high-wire without a safety net.
Jacque, 17 years old, is a recent graduate of PRIDE Industries’ Youth Services Program. PRIDE’s Program provides support and guidance to teens in the foster care system and helps them overcome obstacles to employment. The goal is to help prepare them for independence and self-sufficiency. Jacque faced many challenges early in life. With PRIDE’s help, she made the leap and graciously shared her story with us.
Jacque is one of thirteen siblings. She was placed in foster care at a very young age. Without proper guidance and support in her life, her teenage years had a troubled beginning. Jacque began abusing alcohol and entered into a pattern of unhealthy relationships. After a bad experience with a foster home, she was referred to Koinonia Home for Teens, a highly structured group home that provides clinical treatment to chemically dependent youths ages 13-18.
While at Koinonia, Jacque was given the opportunity to work on her recovery and continue her high school education. Koinonia referred Jacque to the PRIDE Youth Services KEYS program where she began to work closely with Mindy Tubra, Rehab Services Manager and Andy Palmer, Job Developer. PRIDE Youth Services taught many of her after school classes where she learned diverse and important lessons about life. In addition to teaching classes, Andy helped Jacque prepare a resume and job applications, and train for interviews. After doing well at Koinonia, and completing her pre-employment preparation, Jacque was given the opportunity to participate in a paid internship.
Consistent care and treatment helped Jacque learn a new way of living life. When she first arrived at age 16, she had difficulty expressing her emotions and did not get along with others. Through therapy and the classes taught by PRIDE Youth Services, Jacque learned social norms and boundaries. “I have learned what is appropriate to say at the right place and time,” says Jacque. “I am also able to appreciate when people are trying to help me.” Andy tells us, “Jacque worked hard to get where she is today and has made significant progress.” The Youth Services team is very proud of Jacque and the hard work she has done to change.
Jacque started a paid internship at PRIDE Industries in October 2014. Paid internships are made possible through generous donations to PRIDE Industries Foundation. Her typical day work day included assembling toys or packaging tea. However, for Jacque, the best part of the job was socializing with her co-workers. “I was nervous about working on the production line – but now I love being part of the team!” At PRIDE, Jacque works with a team largely comprised of individuals the organization serves – people with disabilities. “It’s amazing to see what my co-workers with disabilities are capable of.” With her bright smile, Jacque made many friends and became a respected member of her work team.
Outside of work, college is the most important part of Jacque’s life. Even though she was originally behind on high school credits, Jacque worked hard and was able to graduate high school a semester early. She is now studying Sociology as a major and is currently doing very well with almost all A’s! Jacque is also looking forward to trying out for the college volleyball team and taking dance classes in hip hop, jazz, and ballet.
After college, Jacque has big aspirations for her future. She plans on transferring to a four-year university and then applying to law school to become either a civil rights lawyer or a criminal prosecutor. “I want to become an attorney to help kids like me to make the most out of their lives,” says Jacque. At PRIDE Industries, we are proud to help individuals like Jacque build the foundation for their future lives – and we wish her the very best!