David, who now is interning with us and pursuing a career in journalism, says “the biggest struggle that I faced in the foster system is a general lack of security and an everlasting struggle of identity.” He is now deciding who he is as an adult, and reading everything he can get his hands on while also playing card games and video games. To him, a foundation for the future begins with building his identity and then having a job, satisfying personal relationships and living in a city he loves and identifies with (and will ultimately write about).
Leandrea just completed her first two days on the job at one of RightWay’s partner organizations, Sanctuary of Hope. She has been a star in the many jobs that the RightWay has placed her with, and we know she will do great at SOH as well. Leandrea grew up in the foster care system, and it was “challenging for [her] but didn’t break [her].” Rather than bouncing around from family to family, like many foster youth do, Leandrea was placed at a home where she experienced abuse and personal attacks from her caretaker for nine years. Throughout this placement, she lost friendships and relationships, and many supportive people in her life because her caretaker would manipulate the people around her. Leandrea is now a wonderful mother and strong person who has overcome low self-esteem and feelings of loss and vulnerability. She has learned that her “self-worth is not based on how anyone else feels” but rather her own perspective; she knows anyone who is not going to be a positive person in her life can go because she no longer wants to deal with bad energy in her life after doing so for many years. Leandrea believes her foundation is built from stability and strength in herself and those around her.
Patrick dealt with a lot of trauma after coming out of the system, and still is overcoming homelessness today. While he was growing up in the system, there were not enough people around him that understood what he was going through -- he always dreaded the moment his social worker would come pull him from class. Even when people asked, he would not tell them why the social worker was there because it would make him feel further stigmatized. At a certain point, he learned to cope with being in the system and it became normal to him. Patrick likes to dance and watch dance videos in his free time, as well as be around his daughter. He believes a good foundation is built with communication, help, and trust. The RightWay has helped Patrick to “clear off his plate and have less pressure,” because now he is in classes for job training and Microsoft, but was once trying to figure out his next steps on Skid Row, an environment he is glad to now be moved away from before becoming comfortable there.
Johna didn’t experience abuse until she was in the foster care system. “When I lived with my mom, I was well taken care of and in a loving home. After I was in the system, I dealt with abuse and trauma, and the result was that I could not trust anyone. I am still learning to be mentally and emotionally stable.” She’s doing awesome now: a Gift of Compassion fellow and spoken word artist, a poet and rapper, a person working on films, someone who is connecting to other youth, and she has an infectious energy about her. Johna copes through several different outlets, “The key is having a really strong support system. A village, a community, a lot of different organizations and people that support me. I’ve redeveloped what family is in those environments and it helps me get to the core of who I really am. Being around so many different people, I see a little bit of myself in everybody.” To Johna, everything is therapy. When she is cooking, she meditates on it. When she performs or speaks, she learns, internalizes and shares. Johna knows her foundation is having a strong support team where every person she comes across knows what she is trying to do and is someone who is helping her to reach her dreams.
Ernesto is now a CAFYES (Cooperating Agencies Foster Youth Educational Support) program ambassador at LATTC for EOPs. He grew up facing homelessness, group homes, and being estranged from his family. For him, the hardest part about foster care was being separated from family and not having a good social worker. He saw his foster youth rights violated or taken away multiple times. As a result, Ernesto learned all there is to know about the system and the resources available through and around it. He began advocating for himself, his siblings, and every other foster youth he could. He is now given purpose by seeing other foster youth succeed, participating in non-profits that serve foster youth and encouraging and helping other foster youth. Ernesto was a part of the very first cohort of RightWay’s youth five years ago, and now is on his way to building his own foundation with the pieces he thinks matters most: graduating from college, bringing family together, building strong values and taking care of himself. He participated in Gift of Compassion’s event yesterday and shared his story to help other youth struggling to navigate the system to know their rights and resources. Ernesto is himself a part of Project Tipping Point, Guardian Scholars, EOPS/CAFYES, and making the lives of others better.
Gregory was really young when he entered the foster care system, so young he doesn’t remember how old he was. He aged out of the system and now celebrated his 22nd birthday this week. Over his time growing up in the system, he lived in at least three group homes and many foster homes. Gregory endured challenges like only having hand-me-down clothing, not being treated the same as other people, delayed court dates, minimal visitation and a lack of supervision. In his experience, people who were supposed to be watching over him would instead let anything happen whether it was fighting, riots, or stealing, until it became too hard to ignore. He overcame these daily struggles by keeping his head up at all times and not letting anything get to him, staying strong in the face of difficulty and knowing there could be worse. For fun, Gregory enjoys going out to the beach & movies, playing video games, skateboarding, shadow boxing kickboxing and jiu jitsu. He also has a passion for placing tiles and other construction that involves an eye for detail. A good foundation for Gregory begins with loyalty and mostly involves faithful teamwork. Because of The RightWay Foundation, he says he now knows how to fill out a job application, how to create a resume and how to keep a job and stay motivated. Although he is looking for a new job now, Gregory is confident he will be alright because “RightWay has taught me how to transition into adulthood and independent living and have the necessary life skills to do it.”
Will always sees the positive in people and systems. He cracks jokes and smiles to lighten the mood of any room. But he still struggled with aspects of growing up in foster care. Being separated from his family and being around a lot of strangers/ unpredictable kids and adults affected his emotional stability. Although he feels the system does well to prepare youth for eventual living on your own (he grew up mostly in group homes), your life is still dictated by grants and good will, as well as a lot of impartiality. It may have improved his childhood to feel love and passion from family members that only family brings, but he knows that even that is unpredictable. Will didn’t always feel safe around other kids, and didn’t like having 24/7 supervision, but he understands that many parts of foster care are good and prepared him for his life now. He overcame many of the struggles he faced by visiting siblings and appreciating the good staff/social workers trying to do best by him. He found “kindred spirits among the other kids, and cohesion with what we experience.” Will enjoys writing fiction, snapping photos, listening to music, reading fiction, cracking jokes to make people laugh, and hanging out with family or friends. He believes a foundation for the future is built from financial stability, education, a sense of community, emotional stability. Will appreciates that The RightWay Foundation helped him out with his first job/got him connected with many cool people (youth, artists, city employees, business people). On Thursday, Will received word that he has been hired as an Office Support/Clerical Intern with DCFS’ Career Development Internship (CDI) Program. He is excited to start this job because it will be the first step in building his foundation for the future and RightWay is proud of him in acquiring this job and moving forward to make others smile.
William overcame a lot of struggles in the foster care system from a lack of health care to difficulty with focusing during school. There never was a time where William could concentrate on one task or opportunity. He has lived his whole life with several mental illnesses that went undiagnosed until last year. After he learned what he could do to healthily address these challenges and live a better life, he says it was great to be “rolling with the punches.” To William, going with the flow was one of the biggest reasons he was able to graduate high school last year. Despite still facing many challenges like transitioning jobs, which he diligently works at in the computer lab daily, William is content with his dependable network of people. He believes the key to building the right foundation is having people you can go to as friends, family or mentors and that you can express yourself in music or writing. He reads poetry and novels in his free time, writes and performs rap to relax, and has many projects he does to keep himself busy.
During her time in the foster system, Jennifer spent most days feeling like the odd man out. Loneliness lead to a lengthy period of depression that she had to put a great deal of effort into overcoming. But today she is in our Microsoft Training/Operation Emancipation course and doing great. She learned to be optimistic when she found a deep interest in movies and film, acting and watching Youtube videos. Jennifer has stayed in this state of optimism and overcome depression through surrounding herself with positive people that bring out the best in her. She knows being a product of the foster system means she will face ups and downs but just as she has embraced the past and learned to accept her situation, we cannot wait to see how she continues to embrace and overcome challenges in the future.
Deitrick always has an infectious smile and a laugh waiting for whoever he encounters, no matter how poorly his day is going. Despite his constant cheerfulness, Deitrick has been through a lot because of growing up in foster care-- abuse, homelessness, depression and inability to make it as often as he would like to school. He grew up in a 48 person group home situation in the LA area and dealt with other placements around LA. He is a studious guy, who hated having to walk to school really far every day or miss a day because of difficulty getting to school or home, but when he was in school he would ace the tests. He is not only a student, but a teacher and advocate now. He is on NFYI’s Homelessness Action Committee (HAC) and taught musicianship and film to young kids through The Harmony Project. Deitrick’s motto to overcome difficult situations is to keep fighting. He not only fights for himself, but others around him that he sees suffering. A good foundation for him and his future is built on creating stability to work from: going to school, having a job, surrounding himself with supportive people, and having stable housing. With those pieces, Deitrick’s positive attitude will propel him forward. RightWay has helped him to “get [his] self-esteem up and know who [he is] because of the abuse [he] went through before being here.” Making and listening to music is one of his favorite things to do, but he also keeps up with and plays sports like basketball or football. He will be beginning his internship tomorrow at Whitehall, where he will help facilitate music lessons for 60 young kids, which is a perfect match for Deitrick.
Kevin came to The RightWay Foundation a few weeks ago homeless. Now he is staying at a partner shelter, enrolled in our job training courses (to which he is early and prepared for every day), and learning to keep a positive attitude despite still having a lot of pain to work through and goals to complete. Although many foster youth struggle with identity, Kevin has a perspective on it that is not often voiced. He doesn’t identify as a “foster youth” first, but rather a youth on juvenile probation because that is where his time in the system began. He acted out and exhibited behavioral issues starting at a young age because he did not feel supported at home. Although sometimes because of trust Kevin says he still has a hard time getting close to people, when he meets new people he doesn’t want to know how long they have been in the system and only their foster care story, but rather who they are as individuals and what events they have going on in their life, what they do for fun, and who/what they care about. He wants to help others out using what he has learned and “pass on the sense of peace and security you feel once you get past hardship and support and relate to them.”Kevin never thought he would be homeless at this age, but knows that this is not it and that his future does not end here. He believes that he will build off his pain both from his past in a broken home and his current situation to transcend into another level of stability. Kevin often makes collages out of his writing, designing his goals and dreams into unique lists and writes creatively as well. He likes to be active and explore the city and enjoys video games when he is around consoles. He believes a foundation is built from discipline, being open to new experiences, and remaining willing to re-learn what you think you already know. He is in a mindset to move forward and begin building a foundation with The RightWay Foundation by his side.
Ricky spends his free time playing basketball and enjoying being a father to his adorable daughter. He moved around to over 20 different foster homes in 20 years, forcing him to adapt to a new home environment every time or he would feel out of place. Before he was an adult, he didn’t tell people he was in foster care, like many young kids do not, because he did not like the reaction he received. Many people would treat him in a way that felt unbalanced, with over-empathy and pity because of his family situation-- making him feel different. After exiting foster care, he started to seek the knowledge that he was never given, such as how to be a man, how to treat women, how to pursue a career, and where to go from bouncing around to many homes. Throughout these challenges, he continued to stay resilient and be aware that his life has a purpose and “now that purpose is [his] child, [his] first born daughter, knowing that what [he does] is for her.” Basketball has been his outlet in times of hardship but also part of his strength because it taught him discipline and focus and what a serious work ethic looks like. Ricky gained further knowledge on careers and more in The RightWay Foundation’s Operation Emancipation, which he did just before acquiring a job at great new restaurant Everytable. He believes a good foundation doesn’t stop at working hard, but includes responsibility, accountability, and setting realistic goals that he can take baby steps towards but still move towards every day. His motivation and attitude has led him to a promotion to manager and a position as Community Ambassador at EveryTable. Often, Ricky lives by the motto of the late, great Tupac, “Sometimes the harder you fall, the stronger you rise.” We can’t wait to see how high Ricky rises.
Antoinette is the kind of person that emanates leadership & an interest in the arts. Fittingly, this month, she starts our internship program with Department of Cultural Affairs, at the Armory Center for the Arts. She is focused on her education as a student at LATTC, & one day she will be a social worker to support people in a way she didn’t always feel supported. Born into the system as a baby, Antoinette then lived with her Aunt until she started getting into legal trouble & was put back into the system. As she grew older in many group and foster homes, she acted out & ended up in the probation system as well-- this meant juvenile jail and camps. She was frustrated by the way she had to tell her story & struggles to social worker after social worker, & open up to many different people over her time in the system. This led her to build walls because many people who worked with her did not react to her stories productively or reacted as if they didn’t believe her. Although Antoinette heard a lot of discouragement, she had one intern spark a change in her outlook by telling her she was already great, & that she would only become greater. Since she realized that to be true, she has still made choices she owns up to as wrong, but now knows they do not define her. Her choices & time to think and grow with some good therapists and social workers have led her to a learning phase of her life, where she is finding a way to become comfortable with being uncomfortable & being alone. Her foundation is built on her drive and mindset because she’s “been through enough, lost enough, stood ground, and messed up” but knows where she wants to be now & how to change her ways. RightWay has helped her mainly through building interpersonal skills in workshops and therapy, as well as day-to-day interaction with the staff & youth. She describes it as “everybody plays a big part, people here are open and non-judgmental and allow me to be myself” & says seeing people who have faced similar challenges to herself speak motivates her greatly. We can’t wait to watch her continue to re-build her life.