Beauty Day

A few weeks ago we decided to officially inaugurate Beauty Day at the Launch Pad. We decided that on this day, an otherwise ordinary day, we were going to honor our residents with a fun afternoon of pampering and self-care simply because.

 

Some of our incredible volunteers came and gave haircuts, facials, and manicures while others cooked a home cooked meal.

 

Marlene, one of our residents, experienced a particularly powerful moment when she decided to cut her hair.

 

“Ever since I was a little girl my hair has always served as my security blanket. For many years, I have carried anxiety. My hair defined me… but today, I decided it was time for a change. No longer was I going to be tied down. My real power rests in my mind and heart, not just on top of my head. So I literally decided to let it go. At first, it was difficult to look past it but I did it. And that to me, was a special moment that I continue to replay over and over again. I don’t regret it. In fact, I’ve decided to donate my hair as long as it continues to grow.”

 

These are the kinds of stories we live for at The Launch Pad. We value our family and all of our volunteers that contribute to the work that we do. We’d like to thank everyone who made Beauty Day happen. We couldn’t have done it without you!

 

If you’d like to get involved at a future Launch Pad event, please click here.

Reunited And It Feels So Good

It’s been nearly a year since Julissa joined us. Before she showed up, she had lost two of her oldest children to foster care due to domestic violence in her home. She had come to The Launch Pad near the end of her rope, carrying only her 10-month old and the determination to win back the rest of her family.

 

Through months of hard work, resilience, and the support of our team, Julissa was able to complete all the necessary life-skill classes she needed to gain back custody.

 

We are thrilled to report that Julissa and her children have officially been reunited. This strong and spunky family is thriving with Julissa balancing both a full-time job and online night school. Her parenting skills have grown tremendously thanks to her Launch Pad volunteer parent coach and she’s now working towards her driver’s license and managing her budget.

 

Help us continue to empower Julissa and dozens of families like her. When you support TLF, your contribution creates a groundswell that helps lift an entire generation farther than they ever thought imaginable.

The Art of Healing

This past February, our Launch Pad ladies were treated to a fun and healing Galentines Day event because of our community partners. The crew had a blast creating freestyle healing art which gave each woman the ability to express deep emotions and talk openly about their feelings… a crucial skill rarely practiced before entering our safe haven.

 

“I never realized painting or drawing could help me understand things about myself and my journey until today,” one resident said. “This Valentine’s Day I’m learning to love me.”

 

Thanks to you, it’s our privilege to pour into the lives of these incredible woman helping them understand the full breadth of their value, often for the very first time.

Through the Lens of Abundance not Scarcity

As the end of the year is approaching it is a great time for reflection, the holidays bring all sorts of emotions this time of the year. I look back on my life and the opportunities I have been given and I am truly grateful. There was a time in my life when I believed myself to be a charity case. That the only reason I could see anyone helping me out during my life, was to satisfy their own needs to help the “needy”. I then learned that there was so much more to my interpretation of the story.  A mentor once told me  that you cannot be angry and grateful at the same time. That statement really stuck with me. At the time, I was so angry at the world, I felt as an  outcast, taken advantage of and truly in despair. It is from this place that my gifts were born, where God showed me that I am responsible for the way I chose to be the interpreter in my life.

As I began to take hold of my narrative, I saw a multitude stories. In one, I was the charity case, another the Selfish Taker, the survivor a constantly cared for foster youth, who was always at the mercy of those who provided for her, and so much so that when they no longer saw my “need” that I would no longer be of importance. On the flip side, I could decide that I was not entitled to anything, that I was part of God’s plan and my purpose required a diverse upbringing that made me relatable to so many more people because of my experiences. This may seem a cliché twist to see the good in the suffering, but by this I stand.

I believe transformation took place in my life when I quit looking at my life through the lens of scarcity. As a foster youth many of us are born into the mentality of having our worlds defined for us that when given the opportunity to choose our own it is a scary place. A place where we feel ill equipped and at times at a stand still to even accomplish the basic life skills, parenting, and most importantly the act of giving love. When I looked around however, I saw this “mental illness” abundant in other people from completely different situations or circumstances. It was then I decided that I was going to allow Love to win. Each family that said yes to provide for me was a winner in my story, a champion to my cause, for my living was the source for their reasons, it was the results that mattered most. The results that I am a healthy 29 year old, college graduate, who is living independently, that I seek to have a family, and hope to be a foster parent myself someday.

At 29, I see a bright future ahead for my brothers and sisters in foster care and it is organizations such as Teen Leadership Foundation who continue to improve the statistics by improving the ability for foster youth to truly connect through relationships. It is this mission to not just raise funds but to maintain a clear action plan that inspires me to feel so strongly to partner in any way possible with this community. As the year 2020 approaches it is my prayer that Teen Leadership Foundation receives abundant supply so that lives of foster youth are changed and that the next generation of foster youth will look back unlike the generations before and say, LOVE WINS!

–  Foster Youth Alumni, Entrepreneur and  Speaker

“I will not leave you orphaned”- Jesus Christ

From Abandoned to Loved!

I was born and raised surrounded by alcohol, drugs, and sex by the time I was 5 years old and was basically the mother of my 3 younger siblings (so I felt).  One day my mom abandoned me at school. My teacher took me home, and after a few days called child protective services. I was sent to foster care. That was 10 years ago!

After some time being in foster care I got the opportunity to attend camp. I just had my 18thbirthday and this past summer was my last time attending TLC. Each year I was able to see the same counselors. I look forward to camp each year; it’s a community of people who really care about you. Each year as camp ends we all make a pact to see each other again in one year. My first year at camp my counselor and I really bonded and she has been a mentor ever since. As my last year of school ends and I am exploring the direction of life she is right there with me with each decision.  She has been the one consistent person in my life for multiple years now.

My life has changed in so many ways from attending camp and being matched with a mentor. You can be a part of changing a life like mine.

-become a camp counselor – become a long term mentor- provide resources for Teen Leadership Foundation to continue its programs.

Elissa; former camper and emancipated youth

Out of Despair into Community…

Dina was devastated. Her grandmother died unexpectedly, and without her, Dina and her toddler son soon would be homeless.

Years of neglect by her mother led Dina to foster care as a teen, but eventually her grandmother was able to take her in. But with her grandmother gone, Dina was filled with fear. What was next? A shelter? The streets?

Because of the support of donors like you, there was in fact an ideal place for Dina to turn: the Launch Pad transitional housing program.

Your gifts ensured that Dina and her son soon had their own apartment, a team of trained life skills volunteers, and caring staff who connected her to childcare, employment, and education. The best is Dina had the opportunity to be a part of a community Bible study and was baptized last year. At the Launch Pad with other young women from foster care, most of whom also have children, Dina found a community she now considers family.

Instead of a life of despair, Dina has a fulfilling future ahead. In January, she and her son will graduate from the Launch Pad, and Dina will transfer to Cal State Fullerton to complete her degree in human development. She has a full-time job and proudly drives a car she paid for herself.

A Camp Director’s Perspective

Hello TLF friends,

My name is Shelly Swope, and I am one of the many volunteer leaders that have the privilege of guiding my church through Teen Leadership Camp in the summer. I recently returned from camp and would love to share a few thoughts.

My heroes at camp are anything but ordinary. They are teenagers whose lives have been ravaged by their experiences with the child welfare system. They have known trauma and deep loss. They have felt overlooked, unseen, and unwanted. They have learned to be adults years too soon, taking responsibility seriously and investing their time in caring for their siblings with fierce vigilance. They have learned to walk with strength and bravery – to face the unthinkable with endurance.

So many of the teens expressed throughout the weekend that TLC has changed their lives – that they come because we are a family. At the fire pit, we had a sharing time and there were heartfelt moments of appreciation for this group.  During our affirmation time, the teens were generous and wholeheartedly embraced and celebrated the other campers. It is beautiful to see them exhibit their belief in one another and to walk together in joy.

At camp I saw them step out of their stories and refuse to let their past define their potential. They’ve given me new eyes to see with compassion and care, and I am profoundly changed by their presence in my life.

WORKOUT BONDING AT THE LAUNCH PAD

Workout Bonding

One of the residents at the Launch Pad recently asked someone on our staff if they could work out together (The Launch Pad has a gym on campus). They started working out then asked the Launch Pad Resident Coordinator to join, as well. Shortly after that, another TLF staff said she wanted to workout too, so by the end of the evening we had two more residents join us! For some, it was the first time they had ever worked out. Everyone worked out together; they laughed and pushed themselves!

That was one of our residents’ favorite evenings at the Launch Pad; they all bonded and really got to encourage one another. It was not about the workout or fitness as much as it was about team building and doing something together!

Purchase this image at http://www.stocksy.com/219377

We have all decided that working out together was going to become a thing to weave into our summer plans at the Launch Pad for our residents and team to experience!

HOW THE LAUNCH PAD HELPED PREPARE MERVEILLE

Merveille spent four years in a Congolese refugee camp before fleeing her war-torn homeland for the U.S. with her mother at the age of 11. With her relationship with her mother deteriorating, Merveille found herself in foster care two years later. Now 20, she has been at the Launch Pad for a year and a half and has made great strides thanks to her perseverance and the support of her “flight crew” team of volunteers. (i.e. parent coach, mentor, tutor and budget coach)

Merveille enrolled in cosmetology school and obtained her license in June 2017, and now has a full-time job at the salon where she’s been working part time as an apprentice. Her daughter, Faith, is enrolled in pre-school, and Merveille is better equipped as a parent thanks to the tools she gained from her parenting coach. Also, with the help of her driving and budgeting coaches, Merveille obtained her driver license and purchased her first car. She has also grown spiritually through her involvement in a community study held at the Launch Pad and led by a former Launch Pad resident along with a long-time volunteer leader.

Merveille has begun her final stages at The Launch Pad where she has been saving for housing, insurance, establish credit and preparing herself to “launch” this month. She is a beautiful reminder of what Launch Pad residents are capable of achieving with intentional support and mentoring.

A WRAPAROUND STORY

There’s no better way to show you how TLF’s model of wrapping around youth is working for local foster youth than to share a story of its impact. This is a small part of Annie and Junior’s story.  

“There are many [ways] camp helped me grow in my youth years…one big [way] was through the counselors; I actually felt wanted and loved by each of them individually. I was comfortable enough to open up to them right away because of the warm welcome they had shown me. Another reason was the group of kids/teenagers I was surrounded by. I didn’t feel like I was the “only one” in my situation, and there were many more just like me battling through the same things in life. I didn’t feel alone for once…
After camp, I continued to go to The Knot and had a mentor through TLF in myteen years. When I was 19 I moved into The Launch Pad.

TLF has supported me in so many amazing and different ways. My volunteer parenting coach taught me a lot about becoming a better mother to my son. TLF helped me obtained a scholarship through a local trade college to get my dialysis program certificate. I was able to save and buy my first car through the help of my budget coach. The on-site care coordinators always are there for me, and take time to listen to me when I get overwhelmed by life.

[I recently completed] my hemodialysis program; completing the program as a single mother is one of my major achievements and I definitely wouldn’t have been able to do it without the love and support of my TLF family. Thank you TLF! -Annie

For more information on how you can become a flight crew member attend a mentor training. Dates are on our calendar.