Celebrating Everything

On June 6, about 160 of us gathered for our third annual Celebration of Everything, where we appreciated FYI’s 90 volunteers, recognized 25 youth who took the first step by joining FYI, congratulated nine youth who earned their driver’s licenses, and honored 15 new graduates! Five youth received high school diplomas, two obtained professional certifications, one completed transfer requirements, three earned associate degrees, three earned bachelor’s degrees, and one earned her combined master’s degree and teaching credential! For foster youth, these milestones are even more impressive, as only 4% of foster youth obtain a bachelor’s degree by age 26, compared to 50% of non foster youth of the same age. FYI exists to break down barriers and bridge gaps so our youth can have the same opportunities and achieve the same successes as those who did not grow up in the foster care system.

The festivities began with a tribute to FYI’s volunteers, who include our Allies, tutors, office administrator, volunteer coordinator, event organizers, graphic designer, birthday card coordinator, mental health consultants and board members. Several youth shared heartfelt comments about what their Allies mean to them. We were then encouraged by Santa Clarita’s mayor, Jason Gibbs. In his inspirational keynote speech, he said, “Fostering Youth Independence truly is that beacon of hope that we have here in our community. It offers vital support and guidance to our foster youth to limit barriers so that these young adults can pursue their dreams and reach their goals.”

Our attention turned to the graduates, who were honored with gifts and certificates. Two of our graduates gave motivational speeches. Aaron, who graduated with honors from California State University, Northridge, with a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, said to his peers:

“You didn’t deserve to experience undue hardship in your life, none of us did, but you still went through these experiences for a reason: to strengthen you and form you into a formidable young man or woman, capable of overcoming any challenge laid before you, most certainly including a university degree. In those dark times when you’re just about to give up, remember your purpose. Whether you’re hoping to work on a dream project in a career, support your younger siblings, or start a family of your own one day, remember that purpose when you’re ready to quit. I’ll put it together in one sentence – it is the lessons you learn from the challenges you overcome today that make possible your dreams in the future.”

Master’s degree grad Sabrina encouraged her peers with these words:

“FYI has been a constant in my life since my first intake meeting. I was always welcomed with open arms to all of the events and it made me feel like I had a family. About a year ago, I reconnected with my sister Julie. I couldn’t feel more relieved to have my sister be a part of FYI, and I know that she will be well taken care of just as I was. FYI has so much to offer foster youth. As a foster youth, I know what it feels like to be overlooked and treated unfairly; however, I am here to tell every youth that you can choose to create a better future for yourself and beat the odds. Do not allow your story to define who you are. You are your own advocate and FYI is here to support you every step of the way.”

The evening ended with The Rotary Club of Santa Clarita Valley presenting scholarship awards to our four transferring students to help them continue their education. It was truly a special evening filled with so much to celebrate!

To all of you who are investing in FYI youth, thank you. Lives are being changed, and it would not happen without your support!

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