Local nonprofit Fostering Youth Independence held a “Celebration of Everything,” re-introducing its annual volunteer appreciation event which had been postponed because of the pandemic, and also celebrating its graduating foster youth.
Over 80 people came together for FYI’s celebration, which thanked the organization’s 90 volunteers for all they do to support local foster youth, and also honored seven new graduates for their perseverance in obtaining their high school, associates or bachelor’s degrees. A special feature of the evening was a surprise presentation to five students of $500 scholarship checks from The Rotary Club of Santa Clarita Valley.
“To be able to come together in person once again to celebrate the volunteers that provide such critical support for our local foster youth, was truly exciting,” said Carolyn Olsen, FYI’s executive director and co-founder. “And to have many of the youth we serve, there as well, was like a family reunion of sorts. It was a great reminder of the community FYI has created. Local foster youth connect with other youth who share similar experiences, and caring adults offer support, guidance and friendship to foster youth who need it so badly because of their challenging lives – it showed the youth there were a large number of people who truly care about them.”
Olsen further explained, “the past 18 months have been a real challenge for our youth, with remote-only learning, some who experienced illness and hospitalization, who lost jobs and others who had to home-school their younger siblings. They’ve already been through so much, and to have persevered through this last year-and-a-half has been nothing short of amazing. That’s why we especially wanted to highlight the new graduates. To go through all of this, and to be able to graduate from high school or college, shows the strength and determination of these youth. We’re so proud of them, and will continue to cheer them on through their next journey.”
The graduation of FYI’s youth was especially impressive given 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.
“FYI and our incredible Allies are working hard to break this cycle for foster youth, Olsen explained. “For a youth with no parental support, the value of a dedicated, caring adult cannot be overstated. Allies are truly changing lives by offering the support and encouragement foster youth are lacking.”
FYI also recognized seven 2020 graduates, who missed the opportunity to be celebrated when they graduated last spring because of the pandemic.
One of the highlights of the evening was a special presentation of $500 scholarship checks to five of FYI’s youth who are going on to four-year colleges. Glenn Terry, president of the Rotary Club of Santa Clarita Valley, along with several of his Rotary colleagues, personally presented the youth with checks along with their congratulations and admiration. Terry explained that The Rotary Club of Santa Clarita Valley is deeply committed to empowering youth and that FYI’s support of local foster youth was a great match for their community support activities.
“We are so grateful to the Rotary Club of Santa Clarita Valley for these scholarships for five of our youth,” said Olsen. “These funds will help youth to fill in financial aid gaps and allow them to complete their bachelor’s degree programs.”
FYI has served 102 youth since the organization was founded four years ago. 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.
COVID-19 had exacerbated the challenges foster youth already face. Many of FYI’s youth became unemployed, and most have struggled with the transition to online learning. FYI has supported these youth in a number of ways and, most importantly, has been a family for those who have none. FYI’s volunteer Allies and staff have also provided emotional support for youth who have felt especially alone during this time.
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.
Glenn Terry and members of the Rotary Club of Santa Clarita Valley presented $500 scholarships to five FYI students who are transferring to universities in the fall.
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