Learn why Hillsides celebrated “Independence Day” early this year

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View photo gallery on Instagram @HillsidesPasadena

Last Thursday, June 26, was the year anniversary of the Peer Resource Center (PRC), an initiative of our Youth Moving On program that offers support and services for youth formerly in foster care and transitioning to independence.

The testimony I hear from the children, youth, and families that we serve is very moving and heartfelt, reminding us why we entertain this challenging but ultimately rewarding work. This is especially true of the testimonials given by three young people at the celebration.

These young adults spoke eloquently of the care they have received through the PRC and the difference it has made in their lives. It left me proud of the dedicated staff who offer the fine services and labor against significant odds to address the needs of these young people.

YMO graduate Destiny Nguyen, 18, whose ambition is to become a translator, described her experience at the PRC as a shared journey. Through the services she received, Destiny knew that, at any turn in the road, she would not be alone but rather supported to achieve her dream.

Another youth, Jonathan Hebert, 20, spoke of the challenges he faced growing up in an adopted home after he was abandoned by his mother as an infant. At the PRC he was able to build relationships with the staff and come out of his shell. Through the Workforce Development Training Program, he was encouraged to persevere and he built confidence in his abilities. He landed an internship doing meaningful work helping other disadvantaged people. He shared that staff at the PRC, “were there for me when I had nobody. I owe my life to programs like this, and in the future, I want to work in one.”

Another PRC participant, Armando Gracian, 19, also shared that the services he received “helped me sharpen my skills and taught me how to maintain my confidence in the workplace.” He reminded his peers in attendance at the event that ultimately they have a choice. “You can want all the nice things…but you have to open your mind to what’s out there. Due to this program, I have, and I’m in a great position.”

Nothing is more compelling than the personal testimonies of impressive young people who have worked hard and as a result, are hopeful about their future. We are so fortunate to walk along with them on this all-important journey from the foster care system to true independence.

This celebration was a great opportunity for us to acknowledge the extraordinary support we have received from the Hillsides board of directors, the many mentors and volunteers dedicated to the youth we serve through the programs of YMO, and of course, the great staff there: Division Director of Transition-Aged Youth Services Thomas Lee and PRC Coordinator Jessica Petrass.

The celebration of this milestone points to yet one more example of how what we do creates lasting change for all we serve. Happy Anniversary, Peer Resource Center!

View photo gallery on Instagram @HilsidesPasadena

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