Local nonprofit Fostering Youth Independence ended the summer with its annual retreat in Big Bear, designed to create camaraderie, experiences and inspiration among the organization’s local foster youth.
The retreat has become an anticipated tradition that brings together local foster youth from Santa Clarita prior to the new school year starting. This summer’s retreat welcomed youth, volunteers and FYI leadership for a few days of camping fun and relationship-building, plus hearing from an inspirational speaker.
“This is a time for our youth to meet each other and develop relationships, learn some new skills, visit a place they’ve never been before, and be inspired by the beautiful setting and shared conversations,” said Carolyn Olsen, FYI’s executive director and co-founder.
One of the retreat highlights was a presentation by Joseph Shane, one of the organization’s volunteer Allies and a former foster youth himself. His inspirational talk about rising up from adversity and becoming who you want to be, struck a chord with many of the youth. One youth said about him, “you have more impact on us than you know. Your story helped me in ways I never knew could help.” Another commented, “this trip was right before school started so it was really nice to get advice from Joseph to start this new semester.”
Following the retreat, the youth shared their favorite part about the FYI camping experience which included “swimming in the lake and the connection to nature,” “being able to have connections with people I haven’t met,” “being around individuals like me,” and “campfire vibes and showing off at archery.”
Other comments from youth included, “thank you all for this lifetime opportunity and I will cherish these moments forever,” “I had a great time with everyone and can’t wait for more retreats like this one,” and “love it here and the people.”
“We’re thrilled that the youth were so enthusiastic about their retreat experience,” added Olsen. “Our goal is to get these youth out of their everyday environment and expose them to new friends, new experiences and inspiration to continue their education and be the productive adults we know they can be.”
The retreat was funded by a family foundation who wishes to remain anonymous. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, Santa Clarita, donated all of the sleeping bags, flashlights, snacks, craft supplies and hygiene kits. “We’re incredibly thankful for the supporters who helped to make our retreat so successful,” said Olsen.
FYI supports Santa Clarita’s transition age foster youth (ages 16 to 25) with needed resources as they age out of the foster system and work to complete a post-secondary education to prepare to become successful, independent adults. Each youth is also paired with a caring adult Ally, who provides support and encouragement as they join with FYI to change their youth’s life and overcome the cycle of challenges that are endemic to foster youth.
Olsen explained that supporting and encouraging foster youth to get a secondary education is key to FYI’s mission, given the discouraging statistic that only 55% of foster youth graduate from high school. Outcomes for former foster youth are poor, with half becoming homeless or incarcerated within two years of aging out of the system. Only 4% go on to earn a bachelor’s degree, and rates of unemployment and poverty are high.
The organization welcomes donations to support their work with foster youth, and these can be submitted by visiting www.fyifosteryouth.org or, alternately, contacting FYI at (661) 360-1500.
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About Fostering Youth Independence (FYI)
FYI is a Santa Clarita-based nonprofit (501c3) organization that supports local foster youth who have aged out of the L.A. County foster care system without being adopted or reunified with their birth parents. FYI addresses the serious challenges faced by these youth, which include not finishing high school or pursuing higher education, homelessness and incarceration. FYI offers current and former foster youth, ages 16-25 years, a caring adult “Ally” to provide the one-on-one guidance and encouragement they need to complete a post-secondary education, as well as resources to help these youth overcome past traumas, complete an education, gain employment and become successful, independent adults. FYI has supported 102 foster youth since the organization’s founding in 2017, and currently serves 51 foster youth, the majority of whom are attending College of the Canyons.