Coming to America at a young age was a rough transition for me and my family. A new place to call home in California was challenging; we experienced a new culture and very little support. I was a latchkey kid whose parents worked two jobs and I knew the door to opportunities was opened with a college degree.

In college, I stumbled across an internship with foster youth and was introduced to a transitional housing program. I became friends with the students living there, most of whom were former foster youth. I was so oblivious to the struggles that foster youth faced. I learned about their stories, their backgrounds, and the various ways they looked for support. I learned that there are more ways to support these youth, other than education, and I knew I wanted to be involved. I wanted to make a career out of helping youth find opportunities. I went on to receive my master’s degree, which focused on transitional housing and foster youth.

I was first introduced to Promises2Kids when my friend asked me to join her on her holiday shopping spree. My friend shared that Promises2Kids provided her with an opportunity to buy holiday gifts for her family and friends, and for herself. When I saw the line of youth, I didn’t understand what was going on until my friend shared about living in the foster care system, they didn’t have a lot of options to have a “real” Christmas. While everyone had a gift from their family and friends, she did not. It was at that moment that I knew the importance of my career and I got involved with Promises2Kids.

As a coordinator, I find myself helping each foster youth find the right opportunity. My role includes providing connections, mentorships, opportunities and much more. From being a latchkey kid to working as a foster youth coordinator, I am reminded that youth need opportunities beyond education. Children, youth, and young adults who have experienced foster care deserve to have different doors of opportunities opened. Through no fault of their own, these minors are placed in difficult situations where their voices are often not heard. Serving as a coordinator means empowering foster youth to opportunities beyond the scope of education. Connecting foster youth to resources and having real-life conversations to help guide them to success has changed my outlook on life and I have hope that their past doesn’t define them.

Taelani Camacho