PINELLAS PARK, Fla. - 22-year-old Falana Shannon says her life took a dramatic turn the day after her 18
th birthday. She had no family, no friends, no plans.
The young woman growing up in the foster care system since she was 8 was about to "age out" and she was terrified. Where would she live? How would she buy food or get transportation? What seemed insurmountable, became possible thanks to the strangers she met from Ready for Life Inc.
On that day – after her 18
th birthday – she received the gift of a lifetime! It was hope – hope for a happy life "beyond foster care".
"Ready for Life showed me a different outlook on life," explains Falana. "They helped me gain my independence and see a better future for myself. With their support I have stayed in school."
This summer, Falana will graduate from Pinellas Technical Education Centers (PTEC) with a certification in Graphic Arts! It's one of many success stories, made possible by Ready for Life Inc.
Now in its 5
th year, the non-profit works with Pinellas and Pasco teens as young as 15 years old. It connects foster teens with an adult mentor, provides access to public transportation, offers job training and financial literacy programs & more. The non-profit also serves former foster kids, as old as 23, who have "aged out" of the system and now living on their own.
Ready For Life Inc. leverages community resources and the passion of volunteers, in essence, re-writing the life stories of these young men and women growing up in foster care.
"Before they came into my life, I was troubled, immature, angry and most of all I was hurt because I felt judged about my life," explains Falana. "I'm 22 years old now and I can say that I have changed tremendously…changed into a young woman taking life's journey one day at a time with a smile on my face."
Another teen, who'll remain anonymous, describes life beyond foster care this way: "I have had 13 moves in 10 years. The longest I stayed in one place, it was almost 2 years. I've had only 2 foster parents…who never gave up on me. I want to thank Ready for Life Inc for supporting me. They really helped me stay focused."
During the month of February, we are partnering with
Tampa Bay Parenting Magazine to help raise community awareness of children in need of adoption.