There is so much happening. 1) It is so amazing just how much can be done when you set your mind to it. We are continuing our workshops this summer but we have added to our plate. We will be hosting a major event, a conference for older youths, on July 22nd. It is a lot of work but it will be so worth it. We have to just keep walking (stepping out on faith) and moving and trusting and believing and it will all come together. Our strength comes from the Lord. 2) We were able to provide 46 Gifts for Grads to the youths who attended the PAL Graduation Event. This was one of the biggest groups of graduates and their families/guests that we have seen since we have attended this event. Pastor Adam Zarb-Cousins addressed the graduates and encouraged them to be all that God intends them to be. We were able to fulfill the wishes of the 20 youths who returned their Prepare-A-Youth wish lists; their requests ranged from new clothes and shoes to microwaves/dorm refrigerators. This was the first year for this program but one that we hope will continue. 3) We are blessed by those who encourage us and supplement our efforts: the Children's Court Attorney Association decided to provide a monetary gift to several of this year's graduates (those who worked particularly hard for Team YTIA). Thanks, CCAA and Mary Kay Delavan (who spear-headed this effort), for your generosity. And, we keep moving forward!
2015 is rushing by so quickly. There is so much to do and, it always seems, so little time. As the semester comes to a close, the UTSA College of Architecture students who are working on the design plans for our "Dorm" are finishing up the details and getting ready to present final plans to us. We are excited! We now are committed to finding a location; no small task, but with God all things are possible. We are anticipating good things; we are encouraged about our endeavors by the people with whom we share our vision. In the meantime, we've got to keep up with the little things so we are continuing to teach workshops (we are currently presenting a series in a foster home to eight beautiful young ladies) and we will continue to go where we are invited. We are raising some funds by selling our third (!) Fiesta Medal and we hope to have a good response to our participation in the Big Give SA on May 5th. We are always meeting new friends who support our cause and want to be a part of what we are doing -- blessings everywhere! Keep us in your prayers as we continue to seek the Lord's guidance with our next steps.
We are starting the third month of 2015 and already lots has happened. 1) We were blessed to have published a pamphlet called "Dollars & Sense" to provide a snapshot of the costs of living alone to youths who are contemplating leaving foster care. We have provided that pamphlet to caseworkers in and around Bexar County. We are praying that it will be well received and become a useful tool to assist young people who think that they can leave foster care without having laid a foundation first. 2) We hosted a successful 4th Annual Sweet-Heart Roundup Rodeo Dinner & Silent Auction. Our Western theme, fabulous music by Billy Ray Sheppard and the Main Event Band, and great bar-b-q, set the mood for a fun evening. And, we made our Big Announcement: we have partnered with the UTSA College of Architecture to design our future home. 3) Team YTIA has volunteered twice at the San Antonio Food Bank and we will be going back again in two weeks so that we can do our part to help those less fortunate in San Antonio. How fortunate we are to be starting 2015 in such a positive way!
As we rapidly approach the time of year to give thanks, we are especially thankful for all of the support and encouragement we receive from time to time, throughout the year. We have been getting better at posting our activities and events on our Facebook page and we are thankful to have so many supporters follow us and "like" us. We are thankful that we celebrated our 5th Anniversary on October 13th; who knew just how quickly the time would pass? We are thankful for the fabulous young people who share their enthusiasm and exuberance with us in all of our activities. We are most thankful that we serve a glorious God who keeps us going, giving us ideas, and stamina, and perseverance, and health, and breath . . .
May God keep you all safe and sound in the upcoming holiday season and in the coming year.
Everyone needs a "little shot in the arm" once in a while; something that says "you're on the right track, keep doing what you're doing". YTIA got just that bit of positive reinforcement on September 23rd. A "child of God" who wishes to remain anonymous gave us a gift of $24,000.00 so that we could keep doing the work that we have been assigned to do for our kids in care. We are continuing to grow in a very positive way. In fact, today is our 5th Birthday (or Anniversary). Five years ago, on October 13, 2009, we felt led to begin make it official by incorporating the organization and now here we are, feeling that we are, in fact, on the right track. God is so good. What a blessing!
For those of you who might think that we have not been doing much lately, please let me assure you that we have. We have been strengthening our ties to the young people we assist by reassuring them that we are there for them. We've been teaching, volunteering, mentoring, meeting needs, and hopefully, making ourselves memorable to "our kids". It's interesting, and gratifying, to hear a young person remember what our acronym "YTIA" stands for and to have a real sense of what we are hoping to accomplish. The more workshops we do the more it continues to hit home how much "our kids" still need guidance and direction. Thankfully, though, they are learning not to be afraid (or too embarrassed) to ask, and then to willingly accept (or at least consider) advice. We've got some amazing young people who just happen to be in foster care. Keep praying for each and every one of them.
Those of us involved in the child welfare system (lawyers, judges, counselors, foster parents, volunteers, etc.) aspire to a common goal: to help the children in foster care rise above the circumstances to which they were born. Our expectation is that by housing, feeding, clothing, counseling (we "therapy" these kids a lot), we will show these children how to break the cycle of abuse. How ironic that once these children reach the age of majority we drop them ("if they want to leave, then let them leave") and expect them to fend for themselves. Even at 18 these kids are still kids. YTIA wants to truly break the cycle by providing youths with a life after foster care. Our vision includes not only continuing to teach but also to provide a safe place for youths to live while they gain knowledge, experience, and maturity to become independent, productive adults. On Tuesday, May 6th all of San Antonio will have the opportunity to support a very worthwhile cause: OURS! Please participate in "The Big Give SA" -- OPEN YOUR HEART (and wallet!) and give to support our kids. Share our mission with friends, family, co-workers and invite them to join in this worthwhile effort.
Several months ago we received a call from the Student Transition Coordinator at the San Antonio CAN High School, asking us to talk to some of their students. Some of the students at this high school had dropped out of school, had had discipline issues, had been living away from home, so it seemed like a prime opportunity. On Tuesday, April 8th, Brenda presented "18 and Free" to 18 eager, attentive, students, who are now on their way to graduation. They seemed to enjoy our presentation and they were each given one of our G.A.P. (Growing and Preparing) Packets. Three of the teachers who attended, commented afterward that this presentation was "exactly what our students needed to hear". What a privilege to Teach Assist Encourage Motivate!
When I first started writing this blog, because we had just been "born", I used analogies to a child in infancy. Each year that passes, I continue to feel that we are like a child learning to crawl, stand, walk. We are now starting to move a little bit more and I feel like we are growing up. YTIA is still not fully grown but, by God's grace, we are making our presence known. Every interaction we have with a young adult, every question we are able to answer, every bit of advice we are able to give, makes us feel just a little more grown up. We want to become a staple in the lives of the youths we are committed to serving; we want them to feel that they have a friend in us; that they matter to us, because they do. As YTIA matures, we feel more able to assist the youths about whom we feel so strongly. They will grow up and become mature, independent adults, and in our own way, so will we. Keep praying for ALL of us.
We just hosted another successful event - our 3rd Annual Sweet-Heart Dinner/Dance and Silent Auction. Even though the event was held on a Wednesday night, we still managed to have quite a few young people (in foster care) attend and they seemed to enjoy themselves. Every time we have an event like this we live and learn a little something for the next time, though. I hope we never stop learning because when we do . . . We are so grateful for those who planned, prepared, and volunteered their time and energy. Bless the Lord for His grace!
Mary E. Valdez is one of the co-founders of YTIA, an attorney with an interest in (hopefully) making things a little bit better.