August 26, 2021
Vanessa Villarreal is a former foster youth, whose past relationships and trials made others assume she was destined for failure. After giving birth to her daughter and receiving services from Promises2Kids, Vanessa was able to turn her life around and is now a Youth2Youth Peer Mentor at Promises2Kids and a student at MiraCosta College.
May 17, 2021
Guardian Scholar Alleen Escobar-Martinez and Mentor Rachael Estrada were interviewed by CBS 8 on their beautiful connection and the positive impact they have had in each other’s lives, since being matched through the Guardian Scholars program
Guardian Scholar Ikemba recently shared his inspirational story withCBS 8 – San Diego News. We are incredibly proud of his accomplishments thus far and can’t wait to see all of the amazing things he will do next. He is just one example of the thousands of resilient foster youth in San Diego. Thanks to our generous community, his life is being changed for the better.
For Kevin and Raegan Prior, home is especially meaningful. Not only is it a retreat from busy lives filled with family, a successful business (Kevin is president and CEO of ICW Group Insurance), and frequent travel, it has informed their philanthropy. They are passionate, longtime supporters of Promises2Kids, the nonprofit “creating a brighter future for foster children” who have been removed from their homes due to abuse and neglect.
Promises2Kids recently recognized its volunteer mentors who work to provide local foster kids and young adults with guidance and support. The event this January at Balboa Park was held in conjunction with National Mentoring Month. Foster youth and their mentors spent the afternoon exploring the park’s monuments, taking photos, and making memories.
Rancho Santa Fe Review
By Michael J. Williams
Dec. 5, 2019 12:17 PM
Carmel Valley resident Lisa Corbosiero’s company Hi Tech Honeycomb is located down the street in Kearny Mesa from the Polinsky Children’s Center.
One day while at work, she saw a teenager running away from the emergency shelter and trying to hide himself in the company’s building.
Corbosiero, who has two sons, took it upon herself to approach the 13-year-old boy to find out why he was fleeing.
“I was able to talk him into going back to the Polinsky Center and we walked over there together,” she said. “It was a good feeling knowing that I could reassure him he was in a safe place and then being able to escort him back, and he was okay with that.”
That good feeling led Corbosiero and her husband Michael to get involved in Promises2Kids, a nonprofit that provides assistance, opportunities and guidance to more than 3,000 current and former foster children in this county. Information on the group can be viewed at promises2kids.org.
“Lisa opened my eyes to Promises2Kids,” said Michael Corbosiero during a recent interview with the couple at a Carmel Valley coffee shop.
Lisa, whose family is from Brazil, now serves as a director on the organization’s board while she continues to function as owner and operator of Hi Tech Honeycomb.
Offering a helping hand was a natural for Michael, a Boston native who relocated to the San Diego area in the early 1990s.
He said he had worked with at-risk youth while he was in college in Florida. After coming to San Diego, Lisa introduced him to Voices for Children, with whom she started volunteering about 20 years ago, and eventually Promises2Kids.
In Promises2Kids, Michael is participating in the Guardian Scholar program, in which volunteers serve as mentors to former foster children after they are no longer minors and leave their surrogate families.
“What happens is their 18th birthday comes around and they are basically out the door. There’s no more support for them,” said Corbosiero, who works in commercial real estate and as a part-time ski instructor.
Many of the ex-foster children become homeless and suffer from psychological issues, he said.
Through the guardian program, Michael is mentoring a 20-year-old SDSU student who is also caring for an infant and has a fiancée.
“He’s an unbelievable, well-spoken kid, a wonderful kid, but he has never had somebody to bounce ideas off of,” Corbosiero said. “He might think it’s a great idea, where I’m like (saying), ‘Let’s talk through this potential decision you’re about to make.’”
As an example, Corbosiero said, he talked the young man out of buying an expensive car with a high-interest loan and acquiring one that he can better afford under the circumstances.
“I’m passionate about this mentoring program,” he said. “We’re there to guide them through the decision-making process. We’re there as a resource to the kids who want help.”
In addition to working with youth, the Corbosieros earlier this year were the chairman and chairwoman for this year’s version of the annual Fore Kids Golf Tournament, which raises thousands of dollars to support Promises2Kids activities.
This year’s tournament was held Oct. 15 at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar’s golf course, where the Corbosieros are members.
While organizing the tournament and engaging in the other volunteer activities with Promises2Kids take time and energy, Lisa Corbosiero said the effort is rewarding for the good it accomplishes.
It also provides another example for their sons, Nicholas, who is in college, and Lucas, a high school senior. Throughout their childhood, Corbosiero said, she and Michael sought to involve them in charity, including working at an orphanage in Brazil and donating soccer equipment to it..
“I want to show them how fortunate we are,” she said. “In Carmel Valley, we live in a bubble. We’ve been able to provide opportunities for them to see that there is another world out there.
“There’s a lot of beautiful places out there, but there are lot of bad places, too. If we can open their eyes and get them to make a difference — that has always resonated with myself and Michael, too.”
Tonya Torosian began working with children in foster care as a social worker in Chicago, and it was there that her passion for foster children began.
“I had never heard of foster care, and thankfully, I have a loving and supportive family, so seeing children being abused was shocking to me,” she recalled. “Even more disturbing was learning and seeing firsthand that the foster care system was equally abusive for many children. The majority of my caseload had a long history of systemic abuse and felt hopeless and unprotected.”
While that was more than 20 years ago and there have been significant improvements in supporting children who are in foster care, those kids from her first job compelled her to make a career out of supporting and helping children in the system. Over the years, she’s worked as a social worker and in the nonprofit sector to create programs and policies to improve the lives of kids in various states.
Torosian, 48, lives in the Talmadge neighborhood of San Diego with her wife, Karla, and their 2-year-old son, and is the CEO of Promises2Kids, a nonprofit that provides programs, services and funding to support current and former foster youth. She took some time to talk about the organization and her work with them, and her love for a specific decade of music.
Q: Tell us about Promises2Kids. A: Promises2Kids was originally founded in 1981 as the Child Abuse Prevention Foundation. Our original project was to raise the $12 million to build the A.B. and Jessie Polinksy Children’s Center, San Diego County’s emergency shelter for abused and neglected children. We have since raised $7 million to help build San Pasqual Academy (a residential education program for foster teens), and now, are providing direct services and programs toward our mission to create a brighter future for foster children.
Q: How were you introduced to Promises2Kids? A: I was working at another local foster care agency … and I was familiar with Promises2Kids’ work as they were then, and still are, a leader in the community at the forefront of the needs of children in the child welfare system. I admired the executive director and the committed donors who were affiliated with Promises2Kids and aspired to work for them for a few years prior to my coming over.
Q: Why did you want to work with them? A: Promises2Kids is well known and highly respected for the work it does with San Diego’s foster children. What set it apart from others was the admiration I have for the founders and the passion that drives them and everyone working here; it really is all about the children. No decision is made without them being at the center of it all. We do not take the easy way out; if something needs to be improved upon for foster children, we will take it on.
What I love about Talmadge …
It is a very diverse community, and we have many fun events with our neighbors. There are food truck nights, holiday parades and a fall festival. It reminds me of my hometown of Madison, Wis.
Q: While serving as CEO, what’s your goal for the organization? A: My goal is to be able to provide support to every foster youth in our community that wants and needs it. For example, we currently turn away half of the foster youth who apply for our Guardian Scholars program, and there are many more who have submitted an application. This is an educational support program that provides scholarships, mentoring, case management, and other support to former foster youth as they leave care and pursue vocational training, community college, or a university education. … Every child should have this opportunity for success. My vision is to serve every child as they leave foster care. We are close to this, currently serving 175 youth, but there are over 200 more youth who will age out each year. So, doubling our program would more than meet the need, would eliminate the problem of not having access to education, and ultimately be one of the first cities in the U.S. to guarantee every foster child a pathway to education. This is possible.
Q: Your website says that your organization provides tools and guidance to foster youth to help address the circumstances that led them to foster care, help overcome issues from their pasts, and become healthy and successful adults. What are some of these tools that are provided? A: The design of our programs is to create healthy relationships that the child can rely on. That is one of the most critical tools you can have in life, the support system that you can draw upon in good times and in bad for support. We teach youth that they can trust others, we provide peer mentors that can show them that they were in their shoes, and now, they have “made it.”
Q: How are you helping them address the issues that put them in foster care and become happy and health adults? A: Through our therapeutic programs like peer mentoring, pet therapy, and our trauma-informed treatment in our case management and mentoring. We start with services provided to children at the Polinsky Children’s Center with emergency shelter. In conjunction with the Helen Woodward Animal Center, we provide animal therapy to help the children heal from their trauma. We also work with Rady Children’s Hospital to ensure that foster children under the age of 6 receive developmental services to ensure they are on track and ready to learn. We also know that connection to family is one of the most important things in life, and our Camp Connect program provides monthly opportunities for the 49 percent of brothers and sisters who are not living together in foster care, the opportunity to spend quality time together. And lastly, through our Guardian Scholars program.
Q: How has your approach to serving children evolved over your years of working with and for them? A: I will always believe that foster children deserve and need the same opportunities in life as I and others had growing up. However, my response to this belief has changed along with the advances and changes in the foster care system itself. For example, foster care used to just end at age 18, and youth literally were leaving care with a trash bag of their belongings, often with nowhere to go. Now, legislation changed to allow extended foster care until the age of 21. This gives the youth more time to prepare for the transition to adulthood.
We have adjusted the way we provide services to the youth who are now adults, but still in need of support. Mentoring relationships change, staff interactions shift, and we need to empower the young adult to be in charge of their lives, but able to ask for and receive support.
Times change and what seemed more important earlier on was advising and steering foster youth to college as the best and only option for success. Now, I feel we understand that college is not the only option for a strong career. We know that there are so many options: vocational training, certificate programs, community college and attending a university. Each one matches specific career goals and interests, and I think a shift in what we emphasize to youth should change.
Q: What is the best advice you’ve ever received? A: When trying to solve a problem, a “no” is simply a “not now.” You should not give up, just consider other options, adjust as needed, and realize that timing may be the problem. Be patient, real change takes time.
Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to find out about you? A: I love ‘90s hip-hop and rap. When I have a grant or other important things to write, I turn it on and knock it out!
Q: Describe your ideal San Diego weekend. A: At the beach all day with my family! Then, we get a babysitter and head out to a great dinner at a new restaurant with friends. I am a foodie.