National Foster Care Month

May is National Foster Care Month, an opportunity to create awareness and encourage individuals to get involved in the lives of these youth – through mentorship, employment, volunteering and other ways.

Growing up always presents a unique set of challenges, especially when making the transition to adulthood. For the more than 400,000 youths in the U.S. foster care system, the following obstacles can seem insurmountable, such as getting that first job, a driver’s license and learning money management skills without a good support network.

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, connecting them to internships and jobs in the community while helping them overcome other obstacles to employment. This success is made possible by generous donations to PRIDE Industries Foundation.

Nellie’s Story:

Nellie is a participant in PRIDE Industries Youth Services and Internship Program. With PRIDE’s help, Nellie has successfully held a job, and has made many positive changes despite the great challenges she faced. She graciously shared her story with us.

Growing up in a dysfunctional family, Nellie lacked support and positive role models. This environment led her to engage in an unhealthy lifestyle; as a young teen, she got involved with gangs and drugs. To help turn her life around, she was admitted to a group home specializing in rehabilitation in the Sacramento, CA region, at the age of 14.

Despite her efforts to maintain sobriety and get her life back on track, Nellie’s attempts failed, twice. “Even though it was a different location, it was the same story,” says Nellie. “I got involved with the wrong crowd and drugs, again. Both times, I just wasn’t ready to change.”

“I never thought I would ever finish high school, let alone make it to age 16.”

Fortunately, Nellie connected with Koinonia Home for Teens, a highly structured group home that provides clinical treatment to chemically dependent youth ages 13-18. Often, Koinonia is the last hope for teens. The group home ended up being just what she needed; at age 15, Nellie made significant strides toward a brighter future. “Having the proper structure and discipline at Koinonia helped me change habits and start living a healthier and positive life,” says Nellie.

It was at Koinonia where Nellie connected with PRIDE Industries. PRIDE’s Youth Services job developers act as mentors to teens in the recovery program. Job developers help youth bridge skills from adolescence to adulthood.

Recovery happens in phases at Koinonia. During phase two, teens are allowed to seek community employment. Nellie’s commitment to her recovery and good standing in the program, gained her a recommendation to PRIDE’s Youth Internship program, in 2016.

The internship placement proved to be successful, Nellie currently works alongside colleagues with disabilities on PRIDE’s contract manufacturing and fulfillment division, packaging items for customers such as packing tea and toys. “I’m proud of my accomplishments at my job,” says Nellie. “This has taught me patience and teamwork, and I have learned skills needed for my future.” As a result of excellent work ethic, Nellie was able to extend the duration her internship.

The transformation has also been beneficial in other parts of Nellie’s life. Once far behind in school, she is now a high school junior who enjoys studying English and is set to graduate early. Nellie also credits sports with helping her stay on a positive track. Her favorites are football, soccer, and basketball – sports where she can apply the teamwork skills learned on the job.

“Nellie has made remarkable progress, and I am proud of how far she has come,” says Kenneth Avila, a Youth Services Job Developer. “She has learned a lot about how to communicate and positively connect with others.”

Nellie is a smart and strong young woman. Once she graduates from high school, she plans on exploring different career options, including the marketing field. For now, we are proud to have her as an intern at PRIDE and look forward to seeing her future accomplishments.

The Power of a Support Team

PRIDE Industries_Dani

By guest blogger, Nicole Richards, marketing/rehab intern at PRIDE Industries Headquarters. 

Job hunting is a difficult process for all who attempt to conquer it. For a young, first-time job seeker it is intimidating to approach the challenge of job postings, cover letters, resumes, and interviews. For a young person with developmental disabilities like Dani Jenkins, 22, it requires even more bravery to take on such a daunting task.

Dani initially began searching for a job on her own at age 18. She interviewed at various locations but found herself discouraged, not knowing what to say or even what to wear. “It was a hard, kind of lonely time in my life,” said Dani. “I was disappointed every time I left an interview and did not get the job, and I did not know if it would ever happen for me.”

The desire to contribute to her community and become independent motivated her to keep trying, but employers were overlooking her. Dani knew she desperately needed help so that she could successfully wear a nametag and collect a paycheck.

Initially, Dani was referred to PRIDE Youth Services, a program which provides vocational training for youth with challenges and disabilities. Counselors work one-on-one with each individual making a plan to achieve their employment of choice.

“I have so many great memories of my time with Danielle, my Youth Services counselor,” says Dani. “We discussed what not to wear to an interview and how to make a good impression. I remember our meetings being a really positive experience.”

To better prepare for the next step in landing a job in the community, Dani participated in PRIDE’s Employment Services Program. “They gave me knowledge and skills that lifted my confidence,” said Dani. “I learned how to interview and be persistent, jobs search skills and most importantly, not to be down on myself.”

During this training, Dani met regularly with a PRIDE job developer to identify her abilities and learn job seeking strategies. For individuals with disabilities, Job developers are a gateway to many employment resources. This training provided Dani with the validation that she needed to present herself as a valuable asset to any employer.

Finally, her endless hours of preparation proved to be successful. Raley’s customer service team lead, Chris, had no trouble recounting Dani’s interview. “Dani got herself hired. She is awesome. She came in, and she was persistent and energetic, and she made sure she got hired,” said Chris. Dani made a great impression during the interview process. “She even wrote a nice thank you letter – it was really cool. That was the first time ever.”

Dani is going on five months of employment at Raley’s. She loves her job, especially bagging groceries. “I just love that I get to help people,” said Dani, “It makes me feel happy that someone else is enjoying their day, and when the customers come back they say they are thrilled to see a familiar face.”

To ensure that Dani continues to excel in her employment she has weekly visits with a PRIDE job coach, Julie. Julie visits Dani at Raley’s, and together they work to overcome challenges such as prioritizing tasks and time management.

Throughout Dani’s time at PRIDE, she has collected a whole team of supporters that cannot forget her outgoing personality and great desire to help others. “Without them, I do not know if I would’ve ever gotten the job because they gave me way more knowledge and confidence and they are just awesome,” said Dani. “Now I feel like I am becoming more of the adult I want to be.”

Congratulations on your employment success Dani! You earned it!PRIDE Industries_Employment Services

May – National Foster Care Month

PRIDE Industries Foster Care Month

There are more than 58,000 children and youth in California living in foster care. Nearly one in five has a disability, with learning disabilities as the most predominant. Foster youth have higher high school dropout rates, lower graduation rates, and of those who find employment – below average wages. Only a small percentage goes on to community college; many do not make it to the second year. The obstacles to employment success for youth leaving the foster care system are enormous.

May is National Foster Care Month – a time to highlight the great work being done by PRIDE Industries’ Youth Services team in support of foster youth and others facing barriers to employment.

Employment supports can bridge a critical gap for youths as they transition from the foster care system to the working world. For these young adults, survival is a struggle enough. Few have had adult role models or mentors who have invested in preparing them for the workforce.

At-risk youth ages 17-21 enrolled in PRIDE’s Youth Services Program receive pre-employment supports including resume creation, interview prepping, tutoring and job club where peers learn about appropriate workplace behavior, dressing for success and more. Youths are also eligible for paid work experience internships, which is invaluable on a resume of a young person just getting started. Services include job search, placement support, and job coaching and follow-up services even after placement.

Community partners are critical to the program’s success. Gap® stores are a long-standing partner of the program, providing paid internship work experience and – equally important – positive role models and mentoring.

Paige is a former foster youth. She entered PRIDE’s program at the age of 17 without any previous work experience. She received coaching, job supports, and a paid internship at a local GapKids® store through PRIDE. There, she was lucky to find an enthusiastic mentor in her supervisor, Jen. Jen was equally impressed with Paige’s work ethic and positive attitude, referring to her as a “little sponge.” Her positive attitude rubbed off on customers whose children sought her out whenever they visited the mall. Jen would have gladly hired Paige on a permanent basis, but plans had already been made her return home.

Returning home often carries the risk of a setback as an individual leaves the program and their support systems. However, Paige took all of her experiences to heart and applied them to a new job at a local organic coffee and tea shop. She loves her new job, her co-workers, and her customers. She has found her place in the workplace, having built a solid foundation thanks to the Youth Services Program at PRIDE and great mentoring support.

How can you make a difference for foster and at-risk youth with disabilities?

  • Look beyond a disability to ability – create work and mentoring opportunity in your workplace
  • Support businesses that employ people with disabilities
  • Donate to PRIDE Industries Foundation’s Youth Employment Services program so we can expand our program to others (click here)
  • Spread the word – share this and any other success stories on PRIDE’s blog with your friends and family