A Former Foster Youth Making A Difference
Kendra is a bright, determined young woman who wants to change the world. She has overcome many obstacles in her life, including being homeless more times than any young person should endure.
Through Denver Human Services, she was placed in foster homes starting at age four, but she recalls, “I had so much anger that I was a young lady with no mother. I became disrespectful, ditched school and often ran away from my foster home.” When she was 17 she reunited with her father and older brother. They lived together for a short time before being evicted and going their separate ways.
Once again she found herself couch surfing or on the streets. A high school counselor recommended that Kendra seek help from Urban Peak, where she received assistance with attaining her GED and was placed in Rowen Gardens, a transitional housing complex that they own and operate. When she found out she was pregnant, it became even more crucial for her to continue her path to economic stability.
It was at that point, Urban Peak introduced Kendra to Mile High United Way’s Bridging the Gap (BTG) program, which helps former foster youth transition into adulthood by providing support and connecting them with many of the United Way’s community partners.
Now a mother of a 1-year-old boy, Kendra works with an Independent Living Coach who is helping her apply for college scholarships, to pursue her dream to study criminal justice and someday become a social worker. Through Mile High United Way, she obtained a housing voucher so she can have a roof over her head, and she’s saving money in a matched savings program with our Individual Development Account. Kendra is also working as an intern at Mile High United Ways’ 2-1-1 community referral service to get valuable workplace experience.
“Without Mile High United Way’s Bridging the Gap program, I don’t know where I’d be,” said Kendra.
Through classes at BTG, Kendra has also learned the importance of early childhood literacy and plans to send her son to Clayton Early Learning in a couple of years. She attributes her newfound confidence to BTG and is often spokesperson for foster youth.
Whether she is speaking to DU Law students, social workers or business and community leaders, she hopes to help people understand why some foster youth are set up for failure and need community support to become successful adults.
Approximately 600 youth exit the foster care system each year in Colorado with little or no support or resources. One in four will be incarcerated in the first two years after they leave the system and 44% are less likely to graduate from high school.