Former Hope Center at Pullen Clients Form Youth Advisory Board to Help Guide the Organization’s Future
There are more than 500 young people in Wake County living in foster care and of those, about 30 will age out each year. Many of them won’t have a support system to help them establish safe housing, continue their education, or find good-paying jobs. But thanks to The Hope Center at Pullen, a United Way-funded partner that connects young people aging out of foster care to the critical support and resources they need, more than 39 of them will.
The Hope Center has helped to guide more than 100 foster age youth into successful adulthood in the last 6 years and in August of this year, four of those graduates returned to the Center to form the Youth Advisory Board.
“The Youth Advisory Board advises us on program and policy changes so we can better serve their peers. They also advocate for foster teens in the community and with local leaders,” explains Hope Center’s Transition Specialist, Saunya Jones, who facilitates the group by drawing from her personal experience as a teen in foster care to help guide the group’s discussions and planning.
The four Hope Center at Pullen graduates who serve as the Board’s inaugural members were selected because they’d reached a pre-determined level of stability – and they’re proud of it.
They’ve named themselves the Concrete Roses to celebrate their ability to thrive in the midst of adversities and in environments where they were not expected to flourish.
Sign up to receive email updates from United Way of the Greater Triangle
Nicki is one of them. She entered foster care as a high school-aged teenager, when she was separated from her siblings and sent to live with strangers in a completely foreign environment. Even in the midst of that turmoil, she pressed forward and finished high school. She knew she needed guidance when she aged out of foster care without the support of her family.
The Hope Center at Pullen was there to help her and they’ve been with her every step of the way.
When Nicki’s two children were born, Hope Center’s Parenting Specialist — with funding support from the United Way of the Greater Triangle — helped her access quality daycare, children’s clothing, and grocery assistance. This support kept her young children from feeling the scarcity she experienced as a child. They also helped Nicki obtain a 24-month voucher through which she only had to pay 30% of her income towards her rent.
Throughout those 24 months, Nicki continued to partner with the Hope Center to learn the financial management, employment, and life skills she would need to maintain long-term housing at the end of the voucher term. And when the voucher expired, Nicki was prepared. She found an apartment for her family that she could afford that was also close to her job. She even paid her first month’s rent and deposit on her own.
Nicki achieved a level of stability that allowed her to graduate from the Hope Center’s Transition Program in May 2018 and she’s maintained that success ever since.
Nicki now wants to give back and help teens aging out of foster care prepare for adulthood and that starts with her position on the Youth Advisory Board. She is passionate about helping them learn financial management and budgeting skills so they can experience stability earlier than she did and avoid some of the pitfalls she encountered.
The Youth Advisory Board has already sharpened the Hope Center’s work by providing input to shape their Rulers, a new tool developed to concretely measure client progress in the Hope Center’s Transition Programs. They are now hard at work planning “Level Up” celebrations to acknowledge the hard work that goes into reaching milestones around employment, education and housing.