He is a very gregarious young man, slightly built with a contagious smile. On first encounter, he greets you with a firm handshake and a relatively confident “hello.” But what comes across as assuredness masks the challenges that he has personally faced. The child of undocumented immigrants, his involvement in gang activities landed him in the juvenile justice system and alienated him from his family. This led to multiple foster home placements. At 18, he found himself with a criminal record and no source of support for a productive, crime-free future.
What he had going for himself was an engaging personality that drew people to him and the good fortune of being surrounded by people who looked beyond his history to believe in the great potential he possessed. What gave him an even extra advantage was the awareness that there was something better waiting for him. He began to match his dream with discipline and hard work.
His is a story not of a young man beaten down by challenges and limited opportunities, but one of an ambitious young man determined to defy the odds and be successful. Meet Victor Pinzon, a student at Long Beach City College and a certified EMT. After a few years benefiting from the services offered at our Youth Moving On program for youth transitioning from foster care to adulthood, Victor is confident, enterprising, and committed to being successful. “My life has been transformed,” he said. His achievements give encouragement to young people like him that things can get better.
This year as we solicit the support of the community during our annual appeal, “A New Day,” we share the story of not just Victor but other individuals who have benefited from our various programs. The support we receive allows us to provide the resources and services that make a new day possible for Victor and many other children, youth, and families we serve. YMO is a great example of a Hillsides program that is dependent upon the contributions and generosity of the community. With your help, each year 35 youth are provided supportive housing, and approximately 450 receive counseling, employment readiness, job placement, and skills necessary to gain independence.
Sandy Banks’ recent article in the Los Angeles Times on youth aging out of foster care points to how essential it is to help these young people develop the skills necessary for true independence. The foster care system at its best is driven by good intention, but at its worst is encumbered by inefficiencies and limited resources. Without the assistance of an organization like Hillsides, which is dependent on the generosity of the community to fulfill its mission, young people who have left the foster care system are more likely to end up incarcerated or homeless than independent and on a path to success.
Help us create a new day for those we serve; your support helps us to leverage the resources we have to create lasting change for all we serve.
Check out the annual appeal and give generously. Share this appeal….pass it on.