A Path to Success

Celebrating our achievements together

For the 20,000+ youths emancipating from foster care across the nation, many have no significant safety net or family to support them during their transition to young adulthood. As a result, they face great difficulty in gaining steady employment. Only 71% of youth in foster care will receive a high school diploma by age 19, and only 10% will attend college – lowering career prospects.

To bridge this gap, PRIDE Industries is proud to help young adults in, and emancipating from, the foster care system develop independence and self-sufficiency skills. PRIDE’s Youth Services and Internship Programs provide support and guidance to teens while connecting them to internships and jobs in the community. This success is made possible by generous donations to the PRIDE Industries Foundation.

With the determination to build a foundation of independence, Phoenix, a 16-year old young woman in foster care, enrolled in PRIDE’s Youth Services Program in December 2016. She has graciously shared her story with us.

Phoenix’s Story:

Phoenix_edited

The future is looking bright for Phoenix. Currently a senior in high school, she maintains a 3.5 GPA, is taking Advanced Placement (AP) classes and is excited about attending college next year in the fall. Phoenix has overcome many obstacles in her young life as a youth in foster care, including adjusting to a new city, school and family. With purpose and drive, she maintains a positive attitude and continues to thrive.

After Phoenix celebrated her 16th birthday, she soon realized she would be reaching a serious milestone. “In two years, I am going to be financially on my own,” says Phoenix. “I needed to get a job to start saving for my future.” However, getting that first job was more difficult than she had anticipated; lack of a car and reliable transportation, a phone and prior job experience all presented challenges. When Phoenix was first invited to participate in an interview, she also did not know how to navigate through difficult questions.

“Coming from foster care, I often felt uncomfortable when asked questions about my personal life and background,” says Phoenix. “I didn’t feel like I had the answers that they wanted.”

Fortunately, Phoenix’s foster mother referred her to PRIDE Industries’ Youth Services Program, which connected her with Job Developer Danielle Anderson. Together, they worked to create a resume and cover letter. Phoenix practiced interviewing with multiple PRIDE Job Developers and worked on her posture, speaking tone and eye contact. Practice soon made perfect, and Phoenix’s confidence increased.

Aside from the guidance provided by PRIDE’s staff, the Foundation was able to help Phoenix by funding some essential items needed for employment success, including a cell phone and new appropriate interview clothing that fit properly.

The job search was not an easy one. “Not hearing back after applying was very frustrating,” says Phoenix. “As a minor, my job options were already limited.” Despite the long process, Phoenix persistently applied and followed up with every opportunity that she could find. After a few months, she called to inquire about opportunities at a local restaurant and landed an interview. With the new skills that she had learned, Phoenix was hired on the spot as a store associate/cashier in June 2017.

“The Youth Services team was so proud of Phoenix for reaching her goal,” says Danielle. “The skills that she learned including customer service, teamwork and balancing multiple priorities, will help her in future career pursuits.” Having a job not only provided a paycheck, but it has also improved Phoenix’s self-confidence. “I was able to purchase my first smartphone and started saving for college,” says Phoenix. With the experience gained from her first position, Phoenix applied again to a department store and is now working as a cashier in an environment that she enjoys.

After she graduates from high school in spring 2018, Phoenix plans to study psychology and become a therapist, focusing on adolescents. “The guidance I received from Danielle and PRIDE’s Youth Services team will continue to help me when I attend college and build a career,” says Phoenix.

A New Perspective on Life | National Foster Care Month

PRIDE Youth Services _ Melissa04

“You’re only here for a short visit. Don’t hurry, don’t worry. And be sure to smell the flowers along the way.” — Walter Hagen

As a very young girl, Melissa was exposed to violence and a hostile environment. “I started doing things that I should not have been doing,” says Melissa. “I got into the drug lifestyle,” she told us, and from there it spiraled. “My environment was pretty violent with a lot of crime.”

Melissa’s life came to a screeching halt when she violated probation and was sent to Juvenile Hall. She served seven months. Shortly after her release, she found herself there again. Facing the possibility of six years in jail and an uncertain future, Melissa agreed to enter Koinonia Home for Teens. Koinonia is the last hope for many youths before long-term incarceration. The fear of losing her freedom motivated Melissa to take action.

Koinonia is a highly structured group home that provides treatment to chemically dependent youths ages 13-18. While there, Melissa was given the opportunity to grow and develop skills which could lead to self-sufficiency upon graduation. She learned how to make healthy choices, create structure in her life, and most importantly, how to maintain sobriety. PRIDE Industries works in partnership with Koinonia to help youths get on the right track.

Making positive change is never easy, but with support and guidance, Melissa’s life did, in fact, begin to transform. “When I wanted it, I was able to take advantage of all the help that Koinonia and PRIDE Industries were giving me,” says Melissa. “I really started getting it.”

Recovery happens in phases at Koinonia. During phase two, teens are allowed to seek a job. PRIDE Industries’ Youth Services program provides job search assistance, resume development, interview preparation, counseling, paid work experience, and more. PRIDE’s paid internship are made possible by generous donations to PRIDE Industries Foundation.
Melissa was drawn to mechanical engineering. She likes to see how things come together. Her passion for this area landed her a paid internship with PRIDE’s electronics department. “I really enjoyed it,” she tells us. “So much so, that I ended up working three extra months.” Through the internship, Melissa learned the importance of quality, proper communication with management, and, most importantly, accepting constructive criticism.

In her former life, criticism would result in conflict. “Coming where I came from, criticism led to confrontation,” says Melissa. She had trouble with authority, listening, and trust. Because of the skills gained through her internship with PRIDE, and the structure provided at Koinonia, Melissa is now able to take advice with grace and poise. “Be open to constructive criticism without taking offense,” Melissa recommends. “It is meant to help, not to hurt me.”

The transformation was arduous; there were many good and bad days along the way. But she did not give up. Melissa graduated the recovery program and earned a high school diploma. Today, she is living independently, has a job in the community, and is looking forward to a brighter future. “I feel pretty excited,” says Melissa. “It is a big accomplishment for me because I never thought I would make it to age 18 much less get a high school diploma.” Looking back at her accomplishments still feels a little surreal: “I was shocked. I am alive, healthy, and I have been sober for almost two years. It is pretty crazy.”

Though the voyage was difficult, Melissa explains: “I had to stop because I was going too fast in life; growing up way too quickly. I never stopped to smell the flowers. Finally, when those flowers were out of reach, I realized that I needed to stop before I never got the chance again.”

As she reflects on the past, she has a new appreciation for her journey. Though she once thought probation and the loss of freedom were horrible, she is now grateful for the intervention. When asked what helped her get through the dark days and tough times, she replies: “My freedom is something that always made me want to live.”

Nowadays, she enjoys the simple things such as sitting on the couch, painting, drawing and listening to music – something she longed for while behind bars in juvenile hall. These days, she can relax without the weight of the world on her shoulders. Melissa recalls being under so much stress she had to be reminded to breathe. “I would stress out so much, I felt like a fifty-year-old,” she tells us. “It was because of my lifestyle.” In contrast: “now, I feel my age, which is pretty amazing.”

Melissa has completely turned her life around and is focusing on the future. She has big plans. “I want to be a firefighter or a mechanical engineer,” she says. “If not, I will join the military and get into the Marines.” With a new perspective on life, these professions provide the physical activity and structure she enjoys and a way to give back to her community. “I feel that would help me give back for my past mistakes.”

We at PRIDE Industries are proud to help individuals like Melissa prepare for their future lives – and we wish her the very best!

 

Building a Foundation for a Successful Future: National Foster Care Month

PRIDE Industries _ Jacque

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’s Story

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!

Kenny’s Road to Recovery

Kenny

Overcoming troubled youth and creating a brighter future is not easy to do. It is especially difficult when substance abuse and an unstable home environment are present.

Kenny Avila, 20, is a graduate of PRIDE Industries Youth Services Program, and a former foster youth. PRIDE’s Youth Services Program provides support and guidance for teens in the foster care system. PRIDE’s program help teens and young adults overcome obstacles to employment while helping them pave the way to self-sufficiency.

Kenny came from a broken family and fractured past. His introduction to drugs began at the age of seven when a friend got him high on marijuana. He became more immersed in drugs in middle school as the result of peer pressure. By the age of 14, he was using drugs frequently. He also began drinking with friends. For two years, he got high every single day until the age of 16. Smoking marijuana and drinking became part of his lifestyle and led him to get involved with the wrong crowd.

His young life was spiraling out of control. By 16, Kenny had been in and out of jail repeatedly. He fought and began stealing to support his habit. He violated probation repeatedly. Running out of options and feeling defeated, his father talked to Kenny’s probation officer. Soon after, Kenny entered Koinonia Homes for Teens, a highly structured, professional inpatient substance abuse treatment facility for adolescents.

At Koinonia, Kenny had an awakening. “I think it was my first weekend at Koinonia that I went to church.” The experience changed his life forever. “After that, everything began to change,” Kenny recalls. Slowly, Kenny began to see the world in a different light. The more he learned, the more he was able to make positive changes. “I gave my life to Jesus.” His newfound faith and devotion also made an impact on his family. The transformation was all around him, which helped with his recovery process.

Part of the recovery program at Koinonia involves educational classes that are taught by PRIDE Industries Youth Services counselors. Classes cover topics including money management, healthy relationships, setting boundaries, drug awareness and vocational readiness. Kenny learned valuable lessons and skills through these classes. “It was as if I were a baby learning all over again,” Kenny says. “By learning what was unhealthy for me, I began to change.”

Change does not always come easily; there were some difficult moments during Kenny’s road to recovery. One evening during his stay at Koinonia, he received word that one of his younger sisters was going to be a teen mom in a few months. Kenny felt tremendous guilt for his sister’s choices, fearing that he had set a bad example. Through this event, he realized what tremendous impact his choices had on others. If he chose a better path – he could help others to do the same.

Life was different now; the call and his newfound devotion confirmed this choice. He now had a purpose and was determined to share it with the world. He completed the rehabilitation program and excelled. “It was definitely a challenge; it was one of the hardest things I have ever done so far in my life,” Kenny says. “But, it helped me greatly.”

In an effort to improve his outcome, Kenny interned at PRIDE Industries and received hands-on vocational training. Soon after, he was recruited to work at PRIDE’s William Jessup University custodial contract. Later, Kenny enrolled at William Jessup University (WJU).

In a few weeks, Kenny will be starting his junior year. He is majoring in Bible and Theology. As a WJU student, Kenny has the opportunity to help others outside of his immediate circle. Through the university’s Missions Program, Kenny has participated in missionary work abroad. This summer, he traveled to Romania with a group of WJU students working with orphanages in Romanian communities. This is Kenny’s second summer with this effort.

Kenny is passionate about supporting other youth. He uses his story to help and serve others. “I like to work with kids – youth – because I know they are at a vulnerable time,” Kenny says. “My younger years were tough. I know I am not the only one who has struggled. I want to use my story to empower and help others.”

Helping others is now his mission in life. Kenny is a full-time student at WJU and on staff at Koinonia Homes for Teens. As a Childcare Counselor, he helps program participants overcome addiction and live a better life. He is paying it forward. Kenny spends time helping the boys with, “everything from teaching them not to be gross at the table to teaching them how to live life respectfully and with integrity.”

What’s next for Kenny? Once he is done with his studies at WJU, he plans to continue studying divinity while working on a Masters or Doctorate. One thing is for sure, “Whether travelling the world and preaching…I just want to serve God.”

Kenny is an inspiration to us all; he knows he is one of the lucky ones who successfully transitioned out of foster care and is now able to live a healthy sober adulthood. As a young adult, Kenny recognizes how lucky he was to be removed from his negative environment. “I would probably be dead, or in prison. I was not doing the right things at all,” Kenny says.

Kenny has overcome a lot in his short 20 years of life. We look forward to following his path and will continue to cheer him on. We wish you the best, Kenny!

SPOTLIGHT ON: PRIDE Industries Youth Services Program

Pictured L to R: Andy Palmer, Amanda Cozington, Bethany Okusako, Mindy Tubra, Traci Hart and Dan Apgar

Pictured L to R: Andy Palmer, Amanda Cozington, Bethany Okusako, Mindy Tubra, Traci Hart and Dan Apgar

PRIDE Industries Youth Services Program helps teens and young adults overcome obstacles to employment – paving the way to a better future. PRIDE Youth Services is led by Mindy Tubra, and team members include: Amanda Cozington, Andy Palmer, Bethany Okusako, Dan Apgar, and Traci Hart. I wanted to learn more about the program, so I spent some time shadowing several Counselors/Job Developers.

I’ve written about foster youth interning at PRIDE headquarters, so I am familiar with this portion of the program. I thought that shadowing individuals in the staff team would give me a better understanding of the entire program and insight into the challenges of the individuals enrolled. What I learned was that the oft-used phrase, “it takes a village…” is especially true when it concerns at-risk youth and those leaving the foster care system.

The following is a recap of my time spent with the team.

 

FOSTER YOUTH

I attended a class at a Koinonia Group Home, taught by Andrew “Andy” Palmer, a PRIDE Youth Counselor/Job Developer. Koinonia group homes are highly structured, professional inpatient substance abuse treatment facilities for adolescents. Each individual is in recovery and their special needs are met through services provided by professional agency staff. Community agencies such as PRIDE’s Youth Services Program provide additional resources and services. PRIDE services are provided by the KEYS (Kaleidoscope for Employment of Youth Success) program, which provides employment services to emancipating foster youth with diagnosed disabilities.

Classes taught by PRIDE Industries Youth Services counselors are part of the teen’s recovery process. They are intended to help them build a foundation for a better future. Classes cover topics including: Money Smart, Relationship Building, Setting Boundaries, Drug and Chemical Education, and Vocational Readiness, which all focus on recovery.

Andy

Andy Palmer teaching teens at a Koinonia Group Home

I attended a class on Healthy Relationships – a subject most parents discuss with their children. These youths have not had that experience. For this class, young men and women attend separately. The students are foster youth participating at Koinonia’s substance abuse treatment clinic in Placer County; their ages range from 13 to 18 years-old.

The topic of Meaningful Relationships began with a check-in; each student shared an update, or something exciting that happened since their last visit. Andy then assigned a journal activity – to write about a powerful relationship and why it is meaningful. After five minutes of writing, the discussion began.

One by one, the students revealed an important relationship: parents, grandparents, siblings, best friends, friends in treatment and more.

Through the discussion, they analyzed the relationships – their meaning, and how they influenced their choices. Feeling loved, not judged, providing a sense of commonality, dependability, and consistency made these relationships important to the teens.

Unfortunately, these were often the relationships that introduced the students to drugs, alcohol, or unhealthy life choices in the first place – feeding a cycle of abuse and addiction. Listening to their discussion felt therapeutic – as if breakthroughs were being experienced.

Breaking the cycle is often extremely difficult; out-of-home placements in a foster/group home can provide a fresh start and an opportunity to make a break from hopelessness and addiction. Koinonia Group Homes and their partner agencies provide vital rehabilitative services and resources to youths in foster care.

 

TRANSITIONING YOUTH

I met with Amanda Cozington, a PRIDE Youth Counselor/Job Developer, and her client Emerald, 19, at The Taylor House – a transitional house for former foster youth and at-risk/homeless girls. The Taylor House is located in Roseville, CA. The home is a safe and comfortable place for transitioning girls; with the assistance of community resources, they can create a healthy foundation for adulthood.

Emerald’s story began when her parents’ home was foreclosed upon in 2013. For several months, she and her family experienced homelessness. For months, they lived in motel rooms uncertain about what would come next. Eventually, the family separated and moved to different states. Emerald was left to fend for herself without her family, a support system, or home. Luckily, she was referred to PRIDE Industries Youth Services.

With the assistance of her counselor, Emerald now has a resume, a cover letter, important vital documents needed for employment, and health insurance. Most importantly, she has a safe place to call home. She landed a part-time job at the mall which seemed promising until her hours were cut.

Emerald_B

Pictured L to R: Emerald and Amanda Cozington

Fortunately, Emerald is a resilient and resourceful young woman. She is determined to make something of herself. She began volunteering at a local organization called Compassion Planet. Compassion Planet is a non-profit providing support to at-risk teens and aged-out foster youth in Placer and Sacramento Counties. Through their business ventures, they provide jobs and life-skills to youth in the region. As a volunteer, Emerald gained employment skills and possibly a new job with the organization which she hopes to begin soon.

Despite her difficult past, Emerald is doing her best to move forward. “Live life and move on,” says Emerald. “The past is the past and it doesn’t have to follow you into the future.” She is thankful for her family and the past she overcame, understanding that those experiences shaped her into the person she is today. For now, she is focusing on continuing to gain work experience that will lead her to a career path. Emerald plans to attend college once she has a better idea of what she wants to study.

 

AT-RISK YOUTH

Late on a Friday afternoon, I met with Dan Apgar, a PRIDE Youth Counselor/Job Developer and his client “Paul” (he asked us not to use his real name). Dan supports Paul through WIA (Workforce Investment Act), a Golden Sierra Job Training Agency grant. Through WIA PRIDE Youth Counselors/Job Developers, provide employment preparation and education services to at-risk youth in Placer County.

Paul, 19, came to PRIDE Industries after many failed attempts to find work on his own. Paul lives with schizophrenia – often unseen and misunderstood mental illness. With medication, it is kept under control, but his speech is also a bit slurred and monotone – something he is trying to improve to make a better first impression.

After months of applying for jobs without success, Paul decided to contact a professional. For the past seven months, he has been working with Dan to create a resume, a cover letter, gain interview and job seeking skills. In March, he landed an internship at a local store!

While interning at the store, Paul has gained valuable customer service skills, and learned how to be diligent and proactive employee. He has also improved his speech and confidence.

Dan and Paul meet on a weekly basis to review challenges and to practice interviewing skills. As a next step, Paul hopes to get a job at an athletic shoes store so he can share his passion for shoes with customers and co-workers. His aspirations go beyond shoes; Paul’s dream job is to be an Audio Engineer. He wants to help artist’s record the next bit hit.

 

View a Los Angeles Times video on – “Aging Out: Voices from those in the foster care system

Aging Out

 

IT TAKES A VILLAGE

In setting out to learn more about PRIDE’s Youth Services Program, I learned about the “village” – the many community programs serving the needs of foster youth, transitioning youth, and at-risk youth. Youth Services works with multiple group homes in Placer County and other agencies including the Children’s Receiving Home of Sacramento, and Mercy Ministries. These community partners work together to help youth overcome often troubled paths and create a better one for the future.

We’re proud to be a part of this network, serving more than 300 foster and at-risk youth annually with support, training and paid internships for qualifying individuals provided in part through PRIDE Industries Foundation.

 

To learn more about PRIDE’s programs, click here.

Thank you,

Catalina Figueroa

 

Believing in Tomorrow: National Foster Care Month

Cyndal 3_edited_sm

May is National Foster Care Month, a time to acknowledge members of the community who help children and youths in foster care. The United States has approximately 424,000 children in the foster care system. Teenagers who age out of the system each year often face daunting challenges. Many do not graduate high school and experience homelessness, unemployment, and incarceration because they do not have the proper supports needed to help them navigate through early adulthood.

PRIDE Industries’ Youth Services Program partners with other organizations specializing in services for youth in the foster care system. PRIDE provides an employment services program that helps prepare youths for the workplace – the key to self-sufficiency. Components of the program include 90-day paid internships and one-on-one mentoring with PRIDE Job Developers. In the process, participants gain valuable experience to put on their resumes, as well as the opportunity to learn job skills and the pride of earning a paycheck. Cyndal is an intern at PRIDE Roseville currently going through the Youth Services Program. She has graciously shared her story with us.

Like many youths in the foster care system, Cyndal had a difficult past. Drugs and substance abuse were a habitual problem in her household. Due to domestic instability, she and her brother were placed in foster care while she was in middle school. Unfortunately, this seemed to make matters worse for Cyndal, who was unhappy with her assigned families and made several attempts to run away. She also dropped out of school and was in juvenile hall by the age of 13.

In order to help provide her with a fresh start, Cyndal was referred to Koinonia, a group home that provides rehabilitative services to youths in foster care. She is currently supported through social workers, counselors, and other staff members. She re-enrolled in high school courses, and has found that math and science have become her new favorite subjects. Rehabilitation participation includes a program taught by PRIDE’s Job Developers; topics include recovery from substance abuse, handling emotions, developing healthy relationships, and employment soft skills. Cyndal became a PRIDE intern in January 2014; she currently works two days a week at PRIDE’s Roseville location in manufacturing.

“I never thought that I would get a job. But they got me one!”

Once quiet and shy, Cyndal has become outgoing and friendly. Having an internship at PRIDE Industries has helped her develop practicable skills as well as self-esteem. On the production floor, she packages and inspects items for PRIDE’s customers. She is enjoying the internship, especially since she likes to put things together. However, when asked about the favorite part of her internship, Cyndal responded “having money-it’s so much fun!” The opportunity to have fun and socialize with fellow interns and co-workers is another perk that comes along with the job.

Along with her internship, PRIDE has provided Cyndal with a Job Developer, Andrew Palmer. PRIDE’s Job Developers work with youths as mentors. They assist with preparing a resume and job applications, training for interviews, applying to college, obtaining needed documentation (birth certificate, state ID, ect.), and securing interview and work clothes. Cyndal and Andrew aim to meet once a week. Recently, they went together to the DMV where Cyndal obtained her first California Identification card. Both agree that she has come very far emotionally. “I have learned how to show my emotions, respect myself and others, and that it’s ok to trust people” says Cyndal.

Outside of school and work, Cyndal has many different interests. She enjoys crocheting and assembling mechanical objects. One of her recent projects was putting together a Robosaur – a mechanical Tyrannosaurus Rex. According to Andrew, Cyndal is also very talented at creating Lego sculptures. Around PRIDE, she is known for making friends easily with her bright smile and positive attitude. With a more stable and encouraging environment, Cyndal has flourished.

At 16, Cyndal has high hopes and ambitious plans for the future. She plans on attending community college and joining the Navy. She hopes to earn her bachelor’s degree and become a fashion designer. Cyndal is moving out of the group home soon and will continue her high school career while living with a new foster family. We wish her all of the best with her future!

In the Pursuit of a Better Future

Kate_2013_B
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.

Gap Foundation Support for PRIDE Industries’ Youth Employment Program

Gap Foundation Grant Presentation

Gap Foundation Grant Presentation to PRIDE Industries. Pictured above: PRIDE Industries’ Vic Wursten, Mindy Tubra and Tricia Ciampa. Gap Inc. Rocklin Call Center staff,  Karen Nunez, Colleen Nerius, and Rena Thompson. Program participant Meranda Rodriguez.

Staff from the Gap Inc. Rocklin Call Center stopped by PRIDE Industries to tour our Roseville headquarters and meet with our Youth Employment Staff to learn how their generous $12,000 grant would support independence and self-sufficiency for local foster youth overcoming barriers to employment.

Gap has been supporting the youth employment program for several years. In that time, they have funded more than 2,185 hours of work experience internships for 22 youth, employment success items such as work clothing, bus passes, or ID cards  for 89 youth, and a portion of the salary of a Job Developer who provided pre-employment counseling and supports to more than 240 foster youth.

In the upcoming year, the Gap Foundation’s generous grant will contribute to PRIDE’s efforts to provide employment preparation, education, and job search assistance to more than 100 emancipating foster youth. Specifically, funds from Gap will allow PRIDE to provide 1,312 hours of paid work experience for 7 emancipating foster youth, and employment success items for 30 youth.

We greatly appreciate the support of community partners like Gap Foundation. Thanks Gap!