Reflections from Our Program Director

There is always a lot happening at FYI. Many moving pieces, all the time, with one common purpose: impact lives, improve futures, and make a difference. The goal is obvious. The process is not. Humans are complex and so are their needs. There are physical needs, such as shelter, clothing, and nutrition. All are important; all are vital to thrive. There are emotional needs, such as safety, connection, success, and love. Everyone needs to know that their life matters. People need people. Youth aging out of the foster care system have gone without most, if not all, of these needs being met. The goal of FYI is to assist former foster youth in reaching academic goals so they can become confident, independent, thriving adults. Degree completions, driver’s licenses, certificates, new employment, securing housing, and gaining scholarships are the tangible successes we quantify. These accomplishments are definitely something to triumph over, and we do. But there is so much more being done.

A few months ago, a youth requested to speak with me. She was struggling with who she was, battling between her past self and present self. What this young woman had endured in her 18-year old life was heartbreaking. She wanted a better life; she acknowledged what a successful life would look like for her and expressed a deep desire to have one. The intellectual side of her knew what she yearned for. Yet her struggle was palpable. I spent a few hours listening, encouraging her, and sharing personal stories. By the end of our time together she felt calm enough to leave. As I reflected on our conversation, I felt honored that she trusted me with her story and grateful that she felt brave enough to share it and that I was available to listen. My mind quickly transitioned to thinking about the difference FYI was making. Every day FYI Allies and staff show up, listen, encourage, and provide a love some children have never felt. They bring hope to hopeless children.

As I thought more about what she shared that evening, something profound also occurred to me. If somebody showed up and told me when I was 18 years old that I needed to completely change who I was and what I did, would I be able to? I am not sure I could. Changing even the smallest things about ourselves is challenging, even when we know it is something good for us. Asking children to rewrite their lives is no different. This is why working with former foster youth is so difficult but important. Children who have been raised in chaotic, abusive environments miss out on the nurture they deserve and can learn destructive behaviors. To make matters worse, they are often removed from one terrible situation and placed into another. By the time they make it to their teens, many of them are behind academically and emotionally and trust no one. This becomes their identity. They must learn to rewrite their pasts to have any hope of a future, but they cannot do it alone.

The emotional impact made by the caring adults of FYI can not be quantified. FYI volunteers and staff are fearless, life-changing heroes. They drive FYI youth to important appointments, share resources, advocate for academic funding, celebrate important events and spend countless hours listening to the youth and validating their emotions. They send important reminders, drive youth to possible job opportunities, and schedule tutors. They send birthday cards, find donors, write grants, and develop partnerships. The list goes on and on. Several FYI youth have expressed that they wished every foster youth had the support of an FYI. It is an honor to work alongside such an incredibly selfless group of individuals. The work being done isundeniable. Being a part of the FYI community is one of the best things that has ever happened to me. It is changing lives and I am honored and humbled to have a front row seat.

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