There are things about her childhood Kendra would rather not remember. Her home life was chaotic. A well-meaning family member took her away to help ‑ only to place her into equally troubling circumstances. By 13, Kendra’s hurt had built up to frustration and anger. All she wanted was to leave. She got her wish and was placed into a group home. At 13, Kendra moved again to a Youth Villages foster home.
Living with Ms. Tate, her Youth Villages foster mother, Kendra experienced peace and stability for the first time. Over time, Ms. Tate became “like my mom” to Kendra, who thrived in her new home.
Kendra had Youth Villages counselors who helped. But most importantly, she had a mom who cared, and she began to believe in her own abilities to succeed. She focused on school.
“All I knew is I wanted to go to college,” she said. “I wanted to build my life.”
As Kendra approached age 18, Youth Villages paired her with a transitional living counselor to help her prepare for independent adulthood and make important decisions about her future. Youth Villages began the TL program in 1999, to provide help and guidance to former foster youth who had no family or other support after aging out of foster care at 18. Unlike many foster children who turn their backs on foster care,
Kendra chose to remain in the state’s post-custody program, an extension of foster care that allows foster youth who do well in school to receive continued benefits from the state, like tuition assistance and other support. Her Youth Villages TL counselor helped Kendra plan for college, fill out applications and take care of important paperwork.
Today, Kendra, 23, is a junior in college majoring in social work. She maintains a good GPA, struggling somewhat with Spanish and math. Kendra isn’t worried though. In the past three years, she has struggled with worse obstacles. Her former boyfriend was murdered and died in her arms, and she lost her second child.
Kendra’s faith and inner strength carried her through and put her back on her path to success. Her former foster mom, Ms. Tate, still is there for her, and her TL counselor is there to help make sure Kendra overcomes the other hurdles life throws her way. When she was unemployed, her Youth Villages TL counselor helped her look for new jobs.
When her car broke down, she helped her deliver applications. When she needed to find a new apartment, she was there as well. The two now work on budgeting, which can be hard for Kendra, who stretches her dollars every month.
Kendra loves her job, helping the elderly with daily chores and talking to them.
“They are experienced and have good hearts,” she said.
She also loves her daughter, Genesis, 2, and going to college. She has earned a Youth Villages scholarship and recently was accepted into the first YV Scholars program, which helps outstanding students like Kendra who have spent time in foster care or residential treatment make the most of their college experience. Kendra plans to graduate in 2011 and find a job in social work.
“I love helping people,” she said. “I think I can help solve people’s problems.”
Until then, she has her TL counselor to help guide her.
“You have to have a desire, you have to want to succeed,” her TL counselor, Devonne Gibbs, said. “I know Kendra has that -- and willpower. She will make it.”