Opportunity Youth Collaborative
The Aspen Institute for Community Solutions tapped the Alliance for Children’s Rights to lead a cross-sector, multi-agency effort to improve education and employment outcomes for transition-age youth (TAY) in Los Angeles. The L.A. Opportunity Youth Collaborative (OYC) uses a collective impact approach, bringing together public agencies, nonprofit organizations, educational institutions and employers to leverage existing resources and maximize opportunities for young people aging out of foster care.
The OYC links the many systems and community organizations that serve current and former foster youth. It works to improve coordination of these services and resolve system barriers that impact the ability of TAY to benefit from education and employment opportunities.
The Los Angeles OYC supports youth on pathways to:
1. High school graduation and GED attainment
2. Postsecondary enrollment and credential completion
3. Workforce readiness and gainful employment
OYC Transition Navigator
OYC Work Readiness Strategy
OYC Youth Leadership Council
Archelena (“Dee Dee) is a 23-year-old former foster youth, who is successfully balancing work and school. She is studying psychology at Cerritos College, and working with the development team at Children, Youth and Family Collaborative (CYFC). Archelena plans to accomplish her dream of becoming a social worker, which began when she first interned at OYC Partner, Para Los Niños.
Finding this balance wasn’t always easy. She was attending Cal State Northridge, but because of her busy work schedule, her grades started slipping and she started to think maybe school wasn’t for her. After talking with her mentors, she realized she had to stay in school, and needed to find a better job to fit her schedule. She was worried, though, because on paper she didn’t have a lot of experience. After networking with mentors and other counselors, Archelena found the perfect position at OYC partner Hub Cities. She then transferred to Cerritos College, where she has made the Dean’s List twice!
At Hub Cities, Archelena was a foster youth ambassador, and she described the position as being a “mini school worker.” Working at Hub Cities solidified her desire to be social worker, and she even managed to squeeze in volunteering after her internship was over.
After her internship, Archelena was looking for a job again. At our September OYC meeting, Archelena bravely introduced herself, and impressed all of us. Soon after, she was hired at CYFC! Acrhelena hopes that in five years she will have her B.S.W., and be close to earning her M.S.W.!
Jesse Sauceda entered foster care and was separated from his five siblings at age seven. While his childhood was stacked with challenges, circumstances grew worse when he aged out of foster care at 18. He was homeless, and struggled to stay safe while sleeping on the streets. After he suffered a horrific attack, Jesse became determined to turn his life around.
He started volunteering at soup kitchens, and soon realized that to start anew, he needed a high school diploma. He found the Coalition for Responsible Community Development (CRCD) and a host of resources through many of our OYC partner organizations. CRCD enrolled Jesse in a diploma program and connected him to a mentor. Soon after, he got a construction job through YouthBuild. Jesse shared his struggle and determination to build a positive life for himself at a recent OYC meeting. Since that time, Jesse succeeded in securing his Section 8 housing voucher, and is in the process of choosing his apartment. Once he does, OYC partner, A Sense of Home – a part of Foster Care Counts – will fully furnish Jesse’s new home!
Jesse’s mentors and supervisors are extremely proud of him. As Shawntae Hines, Career Placement Coordinator at CRCD, described, “Jesse is the face of resiliency. He is persistent and consistent. Moreover, he embodies leadership and team building. I can always rely on Jesse to get the job done. Despite his housing situation, he has always remained optimistic.”
We are thrilled that Jesse will soon have a home, diploma, and work experience to add to his growing resume. To top it off, in just a few weeks he’ll represent South Los Angeles YouthBuild in Sacramento at Government Education Day. Next, he’ll enroll in vocational training in pursuit of a career as an electrician. Doors are opening for Jesse, and he’s creating the life he’s always wanted.
We are thrilled to share that OYC youth, Kyeisha, 18, was selected to be a member of the prestigious Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Youth Advisory Council. Kyeisha is one of only 14 members nationwide to receive this honor. She recently attended the council’s first meeting in Baltimore, and this summer she’ll travel to Phoenix and Washington D.C. Kyeisha will share her experience in foster care and make recommendations to our country’s leaders. As Kyeisha described:
“I get to be a voice and an advocate for youth. They need more – a mentor, someone who will guide them, they need love and support. It means a lot to me that someone read my application, saw what I’ve gone through and that I made a big change in my life – from being a victim of CSEC to being a survivor and an advocate – and they wanted me on their council. I love to give back because if I did it, you guys can do it. You have to dream big.”
Kyeisha has served as a youth ambassador for CSEC Empowerment Conference for two consecutive years where she was presented with an award for being a survivor of, and advocate against, the commercial sexual exploitation of children.
After the Probation Department and the Alliance for Children’s Rights launched a CSEC Prevention Curriculum, Kyeisha participated in a full-day trial run with youth from group homes across L.A.
OYC partners have played an active role in Kyeisha’s success. She obtained a job through the Los Angeles Worksource as a Community Worker in Compton. The Alliance for Children’s Rights supported her in applying for transitional housing and she has an orientation for the transitional housing program at the United Friends of the Children next week.
Kyeisha hopes to own her own business or become a Probation Officer.
This month, we are excited to report on one of the 35 youth who participated in the first cohort of the iFoster Jobs Program with the grocery industry. Lisa entered foster care at the age of two. Now, at 23, she is working hard to establish a career and care for her two-year-old son. Before enrolling in the Jobs Program, Lisa unsuccessfully searched for a job for over a year. Through the program, Lisa participated in a rigorous work readiness training and she is now working for Nabisco! Her duties entail creating promotional displays in grocery stores across L.A. Lisa is proud of her accomplishments; on her days off, she likes to visit her local grocery store to admire her handiwork.
Lisa hopes to become a merchandiser to focus on purchasing and logistics. She also plans to complete her associate’s degree to help her advance in her career. Through the iFoster Jobs Program and OYC partners, she found a career she enjoys that will enable her to provide her child with a stable future. Thirty-two youth from the pilot program are currently employed with Ralphs, Food 4 Less, Nabisco and others.
The Alliance for Children’s Rights is the backbone and coordinating entity for the OYC. The growing list of participating organizations includes:
Alliance for Children’s Rights
Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation
Boyle Heights Youth Opportunity Movement
Center for Engagement, Service, and the Public Good – Cal State L.A.
Economic and Workforce Development Department/ L.A. City Workforce Investment Board
HUB Cities Consortium
TAY Workforce Collaborative