Former Foster Youth Gains Confidence

"I felt like a whole person again," says J.T., when he moved into Volunteers of America's (VOA) transitional housing program as a newly emancipated foster youth. J.T. entered the program after living in the park and couch-surfing for two months. "Some people had parents or people to stay with, but I didn't have anybody."

J.T. understands how important it is to have people in your life to help you along the way. "Every one of history's greatest achievers had help" he says. Because J.T. grew up in the foster care system, having someone in his life who he could rely on, like a parent or mentor, was something he thought would never happen for him... until he met Kent. 

J.T. met Kent, VOA board member and professional photographer and videographer, early last year. When Kent toured J.T.'s apartment, he was overwhelmed by painting after paintingĀ­ each one more interesting than the last. Kent immediately recognized J.T.'s talent and began to help J.T. realize his potential for a successful career as a professional artist. 

Kent and J.T. have since become fast friends. Spending a lot of time together, the two friends talk about the kinds of things that a young man would talk about with a father: relationships, college, art, life. Kent helped J.T. learn how to navigate the business of being an artist, something J.T. didn't know much about. "Someone as good as J.T. needs to have a fighting chance to follow his dreams," says Kent, stressing the importance of mentoring former foster youth like J.T.

"He doesn't see how valuable he is. My goal is to get him to realize and believe in his own potential."

Assisted by Kent's friendship and guidance, J.T. is making valuable connections in the local art community; in this past year alone, J.T. has shown his work in multiple high-profile art exhibits and festivals, painted live in front of audiences, and participated in multiple mural commissions. Kent has also inspired J.T. to return to school and helped him land a job teaching art to adults with developmental disabilities. 

Today, J.T.'s future is much brighter; he now has more of the confidence and skills needed to pursue a career as a professional artist. And he has big plans for his future - plans that seemed impossible before he entered VOA's housing program for emancipated foster youth.

"It means a lot that he cares about me and where I'm going" J.T. said about Kent's friendship. "I think that in my life, I've seen so many people come and go. So it means a lot that Kent is willing to stick around and be there for me when I need him the most."