Leading up to March 22, 2019, Los Angeles County was overcast, rainy and dull.
Despite the weather, something exciting was coming together. Fifty-nine of a total eighty-two current and former L.A. based foster youth underwent intensive training in the hopes of becoming fully fledged TAY AmeriCorps Members.
Come the morning of Friday, March 22, the sun was vibrant, the air was warm, and the flowers bloomed. This was our TAY AmeriCorps Members’ graduation day.
TAY AmeriCorps is iFoster’s brand new collaboration with AmeriCorps, the national service program that improves lives and fosters civic engagement. A grantee of the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), TAY AmeriCorps connects transition-age foster youth with the resources they need to be successful once they have aged out of the foster care system.
TAY AmeriCorps members — who are current and former foster youth themselves — connect their peers with these resources. They meet with their peers at up to twenty-nine host sites including high schools, colleges, workforce centers and other host sites dispersed across L.A. County and the Bay Area.
Ultimately, this process helps transition-age youth gain the skill sets needed to find employment and success once they’re on their own.
To celebrate the end of our Members training and the beginning of their new role, a graduation ceremony was held overlooking the mountain range at L.A. County’s Arboretum in Arcadia.
Four hundred chairs were set up, but the event was standing room only. Hundreds of social workers, county department heads, foster families, friends, and others arrived to watch the ceremony unfold.
The event began with a short introduction by Serita Cox, iFoster’s Co-Founder and CEO.
“To you, my TAY AmeriCorps members, I say — welcome to the team. Each and every one of you has worked incredibly hard and have earned the right to be here today,” Serita said proudly.
The commencement lasted an hour and a half and included speeches by Ramon Covarrubias, Policy Coordinator for the Office of the Mayor of Los Angeles; Ia Moua, Director of AmeriCorps; Bobby Cagle, Director of L.A. County’s Department of Children & Family Services, and an original spoken word piece by Leve Ross.
“You are preparing to help others become better than who they think they can be. Sometimes helping others is truly the way that you help yourself,” said Mr. Cagle.
As a former member of the foster care system, the Director of L.A. County’s Department of Children & Family Services considers this matter close to his heart.
“I feel a kindred spirit with the foster youth because of my own experience,” he continued. “I’m so pleased to think that we are blessed to be with one another, celebrating something that will make such a difference in the lives of youth.”
Even Los Angeles’ Mayor, Eric Garcetti, who is a foster parent himself, contributed a heartfelt video congratulating the new TAY AmeriCorps Members.
Several of our own TAY AmeriCorps trainers and former foster youth went on to address the former trainees they had come to know well over the last several weeks.
It was an extremely special, and even emotional, moment for both the proud trainers and the accomplished youth. The majority of the youth had never experienced a graduation like this before.
The ceremony signified not only the bright path the TAY AmeriCorps Members will lead their peers down, but also the bright path they will walk themselves by helping others, and a brighter future for foster youth as a whole.
We are confident that this is only the start of something much greater, and we look forward to all of the amazing work our TAY AmeriCorps Members will accomplish in the upcoming year.
We would like to sincerely thank each and every person who was a part of March 22nd, and all of the days leading up to it.
A special thank you to Leve Ross, Ramon Covarrubias, Ia Moua, Bobby Cagle and Mayor Eric Garcetti for speaking such kind and inspiring words.
Thank you to our dedicated trainers who spent nearly 40 hours over the course of two weeks educating our members.
And of course, thank you to the L.A. County Department of Children and Family Services. Without them, this wouldn’t have been possible.