Each opened the discussion with that which they are most proud

Recently, five young adults who aged out of foster care at 18 got on a stage at Nissan Stadium to share their experience transitioning to adulthood without a family support system.

Instead of the hardship experienced, they each opened the discussion with that which they are most proud, some being the first in their family to attend college, another a new father.

They also shared their unique barriers to success ranging from homelessness to college application confusion and, thanks to the support of Youth Villages’ LifeSet program, they all expressed confidence in having the resources and emotional support needed to succeed. 

“LifeSet couldn’t do college for me, but they put me in a position where I was able to focus on school and get that done,” said Tristan, a LifeSet participant and student at Columbia university. “The administrative barriers weren’t going to be an obstacle that kept me from doing so.”

More than 100 people attended the luncheon to hear stories and learn more about LifeSet, a program designed to provide comprehensive services and support to young adults in and aging out of child welfare custody. Young people are paired with LifeSet specialists who help them build healthy relationships, obtain safe housing, education and employment and prioritize mental and physical health while provide safety planning and crisis intervention.

Young people aging out of foster care are statistically one of the most vulnerable populations in our communities. Approximately 1,000 young people exit foster care each year in Tennessee and face higher rates of negative life outcomes such as homelessness, unemployment, addiction and incarceration. For those who participate in LifeSet, after one year, 91% reported to be in school, graduated or employed.

Ninety six percent reported no legal involvement and 93% reported to have a stable living arrangement.

The event kicked with Shannon LaBrie performing “Today is Someday,” a song she co-wrote with Kyshona, Autumn Nicholas and teens in foster care as part of The Living Reel Project. The project teaches the kids to express their thoughts and experiences through the art of music.

Attendees were invited to participate in the Big Piggyback, a 24-hour online fundraiser that kicks off Feb. 29 with a goal to raise $100,000 for LifeSet so Youth Villages can expand these critical services to more young people as they exit foster care.

For more information or to give online visit youthvillages.org/thebigpiggyback.

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