Foster Youth

Roseville, Calif.The Michael Ziegler PRIDE Industries Foundation has been awarded a two-year, $280,000 grant from the Walter S. Johnson Foundation to fund its Youth Success Initiative.

“With this generous grant from the Walter S. Johnson Foundation, we are now able to launch the Youth Success Initiative,” said Dr. Jennifer Luebke, Chief Workforce Inclusion Officer, PRIDE Industries. “This new program will provide coaching, mentoring, counseling, and employment to young adults. It will also connect program participants to post-secondary education and training opportunities.”

As the nation’s leading employer of people with disabilities, PRIDE Industries is continually working to expand the employment services it offers. The Youth Success Initiative is the organization’s latest such offering. This workforce development program is focused on helping youth with disabilities and other barriers to employment (ages 16-24) achieve success in their desired career path and live independently. The Youth Success Initiative will help young people successfully transition from foster care, juvenile justice systems, and homeless care systems in Placer and Sacramento counties. PRIDE Industries, in consultation with New Ways to Work, will design, pilot, and monitor the Youth Success Initiative.

It’s the type of program that is a natural fit for both PRIDE Industries and the Walter S. Johnson Foundation.

Founded in 1968, The Walter S. Johnson Foundation assists transition-aged foster youth and other vulnerable young people in Northern California and Nevada, helping these individuals reach their potential and become successful adults.

“The Walter S. Johnson Foundation is thrilled to partner with PRIDE Industries on supporting this program to help current and former foster youth with their employment skills,” said Yali Lincroft, Vice President of Philanthropic Services at the Walter S. Johnson Foundation/Whittier Trust. “They are an ideal partner for this project given PRIDE’s Industries’ record in creating innovative recruitment and training programs that help build an inclusive and diverse workforce.”   

About PRIDE Industries

PRIDE Industries delivers business excellence with a positive social impact. A social enterprise, we provide facilities operations and maintenance services, custodial services, contract manufacturing, supply chain management, packaging and fulfillment services, and staffing and recruitment services to private and public organizations nationwide. Founded in 1966, PRIDE Industries’ mission is to create employment for people with disabilities. Through personalized employment services, we help individuals realize their true potential and lead more independent lives. PRIDE Industries proves the value of its inclusive workforce model through operational success across multiple industries every day.

Media Contact
Kat Maudru

PRIDE Industries is a social enterprise delivering business excellence to public and private organizations nationwide.

May is National Foster Care Month, a time to recognize the challenges that children and youth in foster care face, along with roles of foster parents. Each year, the 25,000 youth who age out of the foster care system continue to face daunting challenges. Many reach their 18 birthdays alone, under-skilled, and unprepared for independent adult life. PRIDE Industries is passionate about supporting youth transitioning out of foster care. 


PRIDE’s Youth Services Program helps youth transitioning out of foster care develop a path to employment while locating resources to improve their lives. The program is funded by generous donations and grants to PRIDE’s Development and Donor Services. Charmaine has been a participant in the Youth Services Program since 2017; she has graciously shared her experiences with us.

Supporting Youth Transitioning Out of Foster Care

Charmaine is a young woman who has displayed incredible resilience throughout her life. At a young age, she entered foster care and stayed until she aged out at 18 as a young adult. With no financial and emotional support, Charmaine became homeless. She lived in her car until it was towed, occasionally sleeping on friends’ couches. Facing an arrest warrant for missing a court date, she was unable to get a job.


Seeking a fresh start, Charmaine relocated to Sacramento and sought help from Grace City, a youth support center, in 2017. They provided her with a Youth Advocate to help connect her with resources, including a referral to PRIDE Industries’ Youth Services Program, which offers support and job assistance to teenagers transitioning out of foster care. 


PRIDE Job Developer/Transitional Coordinator, Danielle Anderson, began meeting with Charmaine once a week. PRIDE’s Job Developers act as mentors to participants in the Youth Services Program, helping them learn life skills while providing ongoing support.

Overcoming Common “Aging Out” Obstacles

One of the first things Charmaine and her mentor did was talk through the challenges she was facing, all of which are common issues for youth aging out of the foster care system.


“Charmaine was frustrated and stressed due to the multiple major obstacles that she faced, including the lack of a job, housing, and transportation,” said Danielle. “By helping her to focus on overcoming one challenge at a time, Charmaine started to become more confident that she could move ahead, especially now that she had a support team.”


To transition Charmaine into her job search, Danielle helped her create a resume, cover letters, and fill out multiple job applications. Despite their hard work, they could not find her a position. Danielle then connected Charmaine with a paid internship at Grace City in January 2018 to perform receptionist duties. With her own experience in the foster care system, Charmaine was able to connect well with other at-risk youth, working a total of 305 hours. After her internship ended, Charmaine has continued to give back by volunteering at the center.


“From the beginning of her internship, it was incredible how Charmaine’s drive and self-confidence grew,” said Danielle. 


With a new source of income, Charmaine was able to start purchasing items for her new apartment. PRIDE Industries’ support also included providing her with funds to obtain a life-scan background check, bus passes, and bedding. Once she became of age, Danielle helped her sign up for General Assistance.


Deciding to take a significant new step after her internship ended, Charmaine signed up for Guard Card courses (licensed by the CA Bureau of Security and Investigative Services) to become a Security Guard. With financial support from the CA Department of Rehabilitation, she attended and passed the required courses and became a licensed Security Guard in July 2018.

Success After Aging Out

Unfortunately, the job search continued to remain elusive because of Charmaine’s outstanding warrant. To finally overcome this significant obstacle, she decided that it was time to report to the court. Once she was released from serving time, Charmaine immediately called Danielle for help. “I felt like I hit rock bottom,” said Charmaine.


Danielle and Charmaine developed a plan to get her back on track. This included signing up for classes to help get her record expunged and communicating with her probation officer. Their persistence paid off. Soon, Charmaine had two interviews with security companies and was offered a full-time position in January 2019. “Charmaine has been enjoying her new job,” said Danielle. “Her manager has told me that she has been a great addition to their team, and she has been working there now for almost half a year.”


To prepare Charmaine for her new job, Danielle took her shopping for clothes to keep her warm while working outside, including earmuffs, layering clothing, thick socks, boots, gloves, and a belt.


Now that she has achieved this crucial step to building a career, Charmaine plans to become a probation officer. 


“I am proud that I have completely turned my life around and hope to help other foster youth like myself in the future,” said Charmaine.


Danielle and others at PRIDE Industries’ Youth Services Program were thrilled to see Charmaine’s success. “The smile on Charmaine’s face has made me realize how much her life has positively changed,” said Danielle.


Transitioning out of foster care is difficult for youth, but PRIDE Industries is there to provide hope, resources, and support, every step of the way.


Generous donations to PRIDE’s Development and Donor Services funded the following items for Charmaine’s journey to employment:

  • paid internship
  • on-going support from a job developer
  • work clothes
  • bus pass
  • household items
  • a start to a better life

Were you formerly in foster care?

Learn about our programs for employment success.

Foster youth face daunting challenges once they hit their 18th birthday. Many lack the skills needed to start employment, gaining the experience necessary for a successful career. PRIDE Industries’ Youth Services program provides support, mentorship, and necessary work success items (such as clothing and bus passes) to help foster youth lead an independent adult life.


Kat, a former foster youth, was facing employment challenges when she was referred to PRIDE in the summer of 2020. With help from a job coach, Kat created a path to achieving her dreams.

Foster Youth Employment Services

As a young adult who has recently transitioned from the foster care system, Kat had to overcome many obstacles without family support or guidance. 

“I recently had no job and had to figure out how to sign up for school, find internet access, and pay my bills,” she said. “I felt like I was stuck in a hard place with nowhere to turn”. 


That changed when she was referred to PRIDE Industries in July 2020 and paired with Lana, a Job Developer in the foster youth employment program. Lana helped Kat with her job search, including preparing her for interviews and teaching her how to make a positive first impression. They also worked together to narrow down the kinds of jobs that would suit Kat’s interests. Not long after, Kat landed a job as a home health aide. 


“Helping people is my passion,” said Kat. “I just finished my first month working as a home health aide, and I like my job! I enjoy cooking, cleaning, and assisting my client, and it’s a wonderful feeling to have her greet me every time I arrive. My job means a lot to me; I enjoy helping others live their best lives. The skills I am learning now will help me serve my future clients as a social worker.”

As she continues to thrive in her new job, Kat plans to attend college.


Eventually, she plans to pursue her dream of starting a nonprofit for foster youth that focuses on counseling and support. “I also want to travel the world and become a homeowner,” she said. “My journey has just begun!”

Transitioning out of foster care?

PRIDE Industries provides internships, job coaching, work transportation, assistive technology, and so much more for foster youth as well as people with disabilities and other barriers to employment.

“My job means a lot to me; I enjoy helping others live their best lives.”

Your 18th birthday is around the corner. Like most of your friends, you are excited about reaching that special milestone and officially becoming an adult. However, unlike the rest of your friends, you’re nervous because you don’t have a plan for what’s next. As a teen in foster care, your group home has provided shelter and care, but not guidance for developing an independent life. You don’t know much about budgeting finances, exploring college, or how to find a job. Aging out of foster care is a daunting reality.


PRIDE Industries offers employment services for youth aging out of foster care. The program is designed to ease the transition out of foster care and help you reach your goals. You will have access to coaching, mentoring, training, internships, job placement training, and community resources, so you will be well equipped for your journey to a fulfilling life.


One member of PRIDE Industries’ foster youth employment services team is AbilityOne Recruiter Dustin Spears. Having grown up in the foster care system, he understands what it’s like to develop a career without much support. Today, Dustin is using his experience and expertise to help others like himself who are aging out of foster care. As part of his role at PRIDE, he partners with several nonprofits and governmental organizations to place our Inclusive Talent Solutions staffing line at companies like Amazon. In his own words, Dustin shares his story along with some advice:

Dustin Spears
AbilityOne Recruiter Dustin Spears understands what it’s like to develop a career without much support

From Foster Youth Services to Independence

“90% of youth in foster care end up repeating the cycle by having their children placed in the system as well.”

Hearing this statement completely chilled me as I sat in a classroom one afternoon. That day, I made a promise to myself that this wouldn’t happen to me. I had to break this pattern.


For kids in foster care, reaching that 18th birthday is hard. You know that you will soon be on your own without a lot of guidance or fallback support. Since the age of 11, I had bounced in and out of 12 group homes. In some ways, it was my choice: I did not feel comfortable being placed with a foster family. When I was 16, I knew I wanted to take control of my life—the first step was testing out and graduating high school two years early.


This time was definitely challenging for me. I started college while I was working two full-time jobs, one at Carl’s JR as an Assistant Manager and another for a transportation company.  It was hard, but I made the best of it and managed to support myself. I stuck with it, and along the way I learned valuable skills and lessons, like the importance of good customer service.


At age 21, I decided to switch gears to work in group homes for foster youth. Because I’d been in the same situation, I knew what these kids were going through. I was eventually promoted from a behavioral health associate to a manager. For several years, I managed a rehabilitation facility for children.


I’ve long known that I want to make a difference in the lives of former foster youth and people with disabilities, helping them gain independence and fulfillment. So when I got the chance to join PRIDE Industries in 2018 as an AbilityOne recruiter, I was thrilled.

Paying it Forward: Supporting Youth Transitioning Out of Foster Care

In my role with PRIDE Industries, I work with referrals, including former foster youth, to place them into jobs with PRIDE or through our partners in Southern California. So far in 2020, I have helped place over 25 youth into jobs at Amazon through our Inclusive Talent Solutions program.


What’s unique about PRIDE is the cycle of support that we offer, including job placement, vocational mentorship, training, and ongoing job coaching. We want to ensure that everyone succeeds in reaching their full potential. For every referral that I receive, I take the time to meet them and evaluate their goals, interests, and skills.


My advice for youth transitioning out of foster care is not to let your past define you. When searching for your first job, be flexible. Any place where you can get your foot in the door and build skills and experience can help you. Once you have a job, even if you don’t like it, keep it until you get a new one.


Another word of advice is to take advantage of as many nonprofit and government agencies as you can, including the Department of Rehabilitation in California. They will provide extra help, connections, and resources to set you on a career path and develop a resume. Accessing these resources will require filling out paperwork and dealing with agency bureaucracies. PRIDE can help with that. Consider PRIDE another resource for you.


One of the most significant barriers for former foster youth entering the workforce is access to transportation, especially now during the COVID-19 pandemic. Most youth who age out of the foster care system don’t have a car. PRIDE’s staff assists with navigating the system and looking for jobs/shifts that can accommodate the public transportation schedules.


The last thing I’d say to fellow foster youth is to realize that the experiences you’ve had have taught you valuable lessons about patience and perseverance. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today without my past. It’s brought me to a great job, and now I get to help other former foster youth find their success journey.

Take control of your life

Write the next chapter of your life with confidence. Learn more about PRIDE Industries’ foster youth employment services.

Most people remember that first job right out of high school. Developing a professional resume, navigating through interview questions, and proving yourself despite a lack of experience, all made reaching that milestone even more special. However, for youth with disabilities, these obstacles are compounded, making that first paycheck even more elusive. This problem hinders further markers of independence, like moving into a new apartment, affording higher education, or purchasing a car. PRIDE Industries offers employment services to help people with disabilities prepare for and secure their first job out of high school and begin the path to their chosen career. 

Partnering with PRIDE Employment Services to Overcome Obstacles

Alexzander turned to PRIDE Industries’ employment services after he graduated high school in 2018. He had minimal experience working in his high school and at a camp for youth in foster care. He was eager for his first permanent job, but after months of searching, he hadn’t found one.


“Whenever I saw a help wanted sign, I would go into the store to fill out an application and introduce myself. While speaking to the manager, I would become incredibly nervous, start stuttering, and completely forget what I wanted to say. Months went by, and I couldn’t find anything. I just wanted a job where I could grow.”


PRIDE Industries’ employment services helped bridge this gap. Alexzander met Carlos Perez, a job developer, via referral, and together they developed a resume and cover letter and practiced interviewing. PRIDE also provided Alexzander with professional work clothes, a planner, and other items to help him succeed.


“I have a learning disability, and Carlos worked with me to develop ways to overcome my anxiety and remember the correct steps while applying and interviewing for a job,” said Alexzander. “The consistent practice made me more confident since I knew that I had support, and Carlos would accompany me to meet with potential employers.”

Employment Services: Laying A Foundation for the Future

All their hard work paid off when Carlos helped connect Alexzander to a paid internship, funded by donations to PRIDE, at a local Rite-Aid store. Eager to start working, Alexzander continually showed up with a positive attitude, impressing his colleagues. “It meant so much when my manager told me that my entire team wanted to invite me to join them as a store associate!”


“I am currently thriving in my job and am starting to learn how to become a cashier and change prices. The best part of each day is making someone’s day a little better.”


Thanks to PRIDE’s donors, Alexzander is now able to build a foundation for his future career. “While learning new skills at my job, I have been saving up money for college; I plan to study computer coding to become a video game or animation designer.

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“I am currently thriving in my job and am starting to learn how to become a cashier and change prices. The best part of each day is making someone’s day a little better.”

With the determination to build a foundation of independence, Phoenix, a 16-year old young woman in foster care, enrolled in PRIDE’s Youth Services Program and she has graciously allowed us to share her story.

After Phoenix celebrated her 16th birthday, she soon realized she would be reaching a serious milestone. “In two years, I am going to be financially on my own,” says Phoenix. “I needed to get a job to start saving for my future.” However, getting that first job was more difficult than she had anticipated; lack of reliable transportation, a phone and prior job experience all presented challenges. When Phoenix was first invited to participate in an interview, she did not know how to navigate through difficult questions.

Fortunately, Phoenix’s foster mother referred her to PRIDE Industries’ Youth Services Program, which connected her with Job Developer Danielle Anderson. Together, they worked to create a resume and cover letter. Phoenix practiced interviewing and worked on her posture, speaking tone and eye contact. Practice soon made perfect, and Phoenix’s confidence increased.

In addition to the guidance provided by PRIDE’s staff, donors funded some essential items needed for employment success, including a cell phone and new interview attire.

The job search was not an easy one. “Not hearing back after applying was very frustrating,” says Phoenix. “As a minor, my job options were already limited.” Despite the long process, Phoenix persistently applied and followed up with every opportunity that she could find. After a few months, she landed an interview at a local restaurant. With the new skills that she had learned, Phoenix was hired on the spot as a store associate/cashier in June 2017.

“The guidance I received from Danielle and PRIDE’s Youth Services team will continue to help me when I attend college and begin focusing on starting a career,” says Phoenix.  Phoenix graduated from high school and is now attending Sierra College and moved out of her foster parents’ to Taylor House, a transitional home for former foster youth.

Make a difference for foster youth

Help emancipated foster youth find purpose and independence through meaningful employment.

“Coming from foster care, I often felt uncomfortable when asked questions about my personal life and background. I didn’t feel like I had the answers that they wanted.”