Bridging the Gap from School to Work

December 17, 2008 8:01:09 PM PST
At the young age of 19, Joe Romer has already lived through a lot. "I never met my father-- my mom was a drug addict, so she was never around. I have a younger brother and sister which I took care of for most of their lives."Joe ran away from several group homes, became addicted to crystal meth and ended up in juvenile hall. Then someone introduced him to the Fresno County Bridge Program.

Joe: "They just offered a big hand of support ... that I really needed ... It really pushed me into the right direction."

The program is a partnership between Fresno City College, the Workforce investment board and the Department of Children and Family Services. It helps young people that have aged out of foster care, like Joe and other at risk youth gain confidence and explore career opportunities.

Nick D'Acquisto, Fresno County Workforce Investment Board: "We recognize that a lot of them come from different backgrounds and we want to help them get some career direction. We want to help them bridge the gap in the next part of their lives.'

The semester-long program helps students with childcare, food, housing, transportation and guidance counseling.

D'Acquisto: "A lot of times they are lacking that emotional, family, social support and we're there as a program to wrap our arms around them.

The kind of support Dayshella Weatherby has lacked for most of her life. Dayshella was placed in foster care at the age of six-- after suffering abuse at home.

Dayshella Weatherby: "I've actually had a few depressed moments-- where I was just like, I want to be like everybody else and live with their parents and the joys of being one happy family and not moving from place to place.

But Dayshella says living with five foster families has made her stronger and given her a positive outlook on life.

With the help of the Bridge Program she is on her way to getting a degree in social work ... And already putting her skills to work at FCC's Child Development Center.

"I think my future has a lot to do with youth-- and how to help them with any of their issues-- just to relate to them and let them know they are not the only ones going thru struggles."

Joe graduated from the Bridge program last year. Dayshella is one of 36 students that graduate from the program Wednesday night.

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