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.
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.