We are officially 10 years old (our anniversary was October 13th) and as we grow, we find that there is more and more need among the young people we serve. Years ago, the State legislature authorized tuition-free post-high school education at State-supported colleges and universities. There was some concern voiced, however, because it appeared that very few of the youths leaving foster care actually took advantage of this tremendous opportunity. Sadly, no one stopped to think that maybe the young people were being told that this benefit was available but not how to actually prepare to use it. Did you know that many youths in high school are not aware of the steps that are needed to get themselves ready to: apply for college, take an entrance exam, or how to even search for a school? YTIA saw that need and we are now addressing it. In September we began offering our "Pre-College Prep" Workshops. Each youth who attends gets a binder chock full of valuable information including step-by-step timelines for each high school year, as well as suggestions for other necessary preparations (how to write a request for a letter of recommendation, and work on a resume, among other things). Our workshops even show youths how to take advantage of programs offered at local junior colleges that can lead to a license or certificate for a trade, if the youth does not necessarily want to obtain a degree. We are excited to report that we are seeing the "light bulb" turn on for so many of the youths who have attended. We are going to keep on offering these workshops every semester, with a summer event to make it even more meaningful for high school seniors, AND, if we need to hand-hold during Orientation we are going to do that too, for as many youths as ask us to. Please pray for this endeavor -- we know it's worth it! Remember: "Education is Key, Knowledge (not necessarily College) is Power".
Mary E. Valdez is one of the co-founders of YTIA, an attorney with an interest in (hopefully) making things a little bit better.