The end of school and the beginning of summer brings graduation day for many. Families gather and celebrate yet another milestone as their young one furthers their education and develops into a young adult. For several Long Island teens, graduation may involve little to no immediate family in attendance yet feel equally supportive. At FCA's Walkabout Transitional Home for homeless young adults, the primary goal is to guide youth to be able to live independently and develop into healthy adults. Youth who have struggled to find a place to live or were living in an unstable and often unsafe environment find Walkabout to be a warm, welcoming and judgement-free home with staff members that will go above and beyond to help residents stay on a path to success. In addition to providing in-house services, Walkabout staff are well known for attending outside events that celebrate and recognize resident's accomplishments.
At FCA's Walkabout Transitional Home for homeless young adults, the primary goal is to guide youth to be able to live independently and develop into healthy adults. Youth who have struggled to find a place to live or were living in an unstable and often unsafe environment find Walkabout to be a warm, welcoming and judgement-free home with staff members that will go above and beyond to help residents stay on a path to success. In addition to providing in-house services, Walkabout staff are well known for attending outside events that celebrate and recognize resident's accomplishments.
Most recently, Walkabout celebrated the graduation of a self-motivated resident named Angela. Her time at Walkabout has been immensely exciting for staff to witness how far she has developed in terms of gaining the tools needed for independent living. Angela is a true scholar, excelling in her academics and going above and beyond to advance her studies when possible.
Walkabout staff describes Angela as confident with a clear path for her academic future. Walkabout career counselor Kristen Ferrari said, "she knows what she wants and is willing to put in the work to get there".
Walkabout staff was in attendance for Angela's graduation ceremony at Uniondale High School last month where she was awarded a merit scholarship from the Uniondale Federation of Teachers as well as a scholarship from Latinas Unidas. Angela is currently choosing between Nassau Community College and Mercy College to study elementary education.
Walkabout can house 10 young adults at a time and is a unique program to Nassau County. To learn more about Walkabout, visit the Walkabout web page. To support Walkabout, visit our donate page to contribute to the success of hundreds of young adults each and every year.
Valentine's Day - Smiles for FCA's Seniors
Verizon Fios1 Long Island Valentines Day Story: From FCA's Youngest to our Eldest - Heart and Soul February 2017 brought many smiles to seniors across Nassau County. A unique collaboration between Family and Children's Association and 1-800-Flowers led to 15 bouquets being delivered to seniors who are involved with FCA's senior programs. One special delivery was made to Mrs. Citarella (100 years young) who received a bouquet of flowers from FCA's nursery co-op kids. The kids also made Mrs. Citarella hand-made Valentine's Day cards and sang her a love song. Mrs. Citarella was married on Valentines Day in 1942 to her husband who passed several years ago.
Homeless Teen Fights for Her Future
While most 17 year olds were thinking about their high school graduation or contemplating which college they will go to in the fall, Jessica* was struggling with unstable housing conditions along with her father when she first entered Family & Children's program at Nassau Haven for runaway and homeless youth. Despite these challenging circumstances, Jessica was determined to be a successful and independent young adult and to achieve her goal of graduating from high school and going to college.
Having made great progress at Nassau Haven Jessica was transferred to FCAs Walkabout for Young Men and Women where she joined other young adults at the transitional housing facility. "At Walkabout, the focus is on helping youths have a place to call home while they gain important skills leading to self-sufficiency as well as the ability to become financially independent" says Andrea Kerr, Program Coordinator at Walkabout. Jessica was absolutely thrilled to reach some important milestones during her stay at Walkabout including graduation from Freeport High, securing her very first job at Starbucks and saving $2,000!
With the help of Day Counselor Kristen Ferrari she was able to navigate the college application process and was thrilled when she received her acceptance to SUNY Buffalo Educational Program.
Jessica's excitement turned into apprehension however, when she contemplated how she would handle the expense of travel, tuition and purchase of dorm supplies. However, that all turned around when Kristen and the other counselors at Walkabout rallied to her side and not only raised $650 for dorm supplies and new clothes but they also obtained a donation from Jet Blue for a ticket to SUNY Buffalo so she could start college on time with her class!
"It can be tough seeing the way some of these kids struggle and what they go through,” says Counselor Ferrari, “but to see a young woman like Jessica utilize the services and become a success makes it all worthwhile. That is the reason we are here."
Nassau Haven and Walkabout for Young Men and Women are just two of the programs of Family & Children’s Association. Family & Children’s is dedicated to protecting and strengthening Long Island’s most vulnerable children, seniors, families, and communities. We offer assistance to those who are experiencing social, emotional, and economic challenges. In 2015, FCA provided help and hope to over 20,000 men, women and children in Nassau and Suffolk.
*Some names have been changed.
To learn more about Family & Children’s Walkabout for Young Men and Women visit: www.familyandchildrens.org/walkabout
Rebuilding Our Family
We were at a loss of how to deal with our son Branden, a boy we hardly recognized. The good student who laughed easily had become sullen and angry, missing school and ignoring curfews. We knew the yelling, grounding and punishments only made matters worse, but we were at our wits end. It was at our lowest point that we made the decision to seek help from the Nassau County court system and petitioned the court to supervise our son. Thankfully we were directed to FCA instead. After meeting individually and as a family with your family specialist, we realized that we each had a lot of work to do. We learned how to implement simple strategies into our lives as a way of building stronger bonds with each other through trust, quality time and empathy. Your concept of “My Time” has helped us figure things out in a kinder, gentler manner. We were made to feel comfortable and not different from ‘normal’ families. Now that our counseling is ending, we wish to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all you have done to help our family.
From Foster Child to Grateful Mom
I was placed in foster care at a very young age. I lived with my first foster family until the age of 10 when my foster care father passed away. I then moved to a wonderful family with whom I stayed until I became an adult. I consider myself very lucky to have such a wonderful family in my life, a family with whom I am still close to this day.
Over the years it was difficult to stay focused on the positives in life and to avoid negative feelings that result when a person feels unwanted by their birth parents. Then, when I had to move to a new family and change schools at the formidable age of 10, I felt a great burden and struggled to adjust to a new home and a new school. As a teenager, I struggled with some of these feelings and made some mistakes, but I always felt supported by my foster family who encouraged me to learn from every experience.
I decided to focus on the “what could be” scenario versus the “woe is me” mindset. On some level I knew that the “woe is me” mindset would set me back and lead to unhealthy choices. My brother who lived apart from me was in and out of jail over the years and I knew that I didn’t want that kind of life for myself. But, it was the help I received from your Project Independence that really saved my life.
I started attending Project Independence meetings and became involved in all the activities that you had to offer. The counselors enhanced my life by letting me know that I was worthy of love and support. They encouraged me to take advantage of every opportunity that was open to me and to give myself the chance to succeed. I attended meetings and picnics and was even invited to speak at your ThanksGiving Ball in an effort to coax me out of my shell. “The system” that oversees children in foster care is very cold, but the counselors at Project Independence were warm, loving and turned out to be not a replacement of my foster family but an additional family that cared about me. Being in your program felt like a sigh of relief.
When I turned 18 and aged out of foster care, I was lucky enough to receive an offer from my Project Independence counselor to move to subsidized housing. This way I could try to find employment and live on my own. Or, she said I could go to college. College!? My foster mother and my counselor helped me with the applications and financial aid forms and off to college I went. It was a great opportunity that has shaped my career and led to my financial stability and family success. Today I am married and the mother of a beautiful six year old boy. I give him all the love and encouragement and tell him that he can be anything he wants to be, and I tell him that no dream is too big.
Saving Our Family
For my family, the last fourteen weeks have been a rollercoaster ride and not the fun kind. We were at a loss of how to deal with our son Simon, a boy we hardly recognized anymore. The good student who laughed easily had become sullen and angry, missing school and ignoring curfews. We knew the yelling, grounding and punishments were only making matters worse, but we were at our wits end. It was at our lowest point that we made the decision to seek help from the Nassau County court system. What would happen to our son if we didn’t seek help? What would happen to him once he became part of the juvenile justice system? After many sleepless nights, we petitioned the court to supervise our son as part of their Person in Need of Supervision program (PINS).
We were surprised when our entire family was directed to FCA. After meeting individually and as a family with your family specialist, we realized that there was a lot of work to be done and not just by Simon. Each of us learned how to implement simple strategies into our lives as a way of building stronger bonds with each other through trust, quality time and empathy. Your concept of “My Time” has helped us figure things out in a kinder, gentler manner. Participating in your Strengthening Families program helped us re-evaluate each other and guided us through the difficult process of becoming a more united family, able to deal more effectively with our anger and our emotions. We were made to feel comfortable and not different from ‘normal’ families. Now that our program is ending, we wish to thank you from the bottom of our hearts for all you have done to help our family. We will miss you… but hopefully we won’t need to come back, except to say hello.
In 2006, my family made the difficult decision to leave our home in Iraq because of increasing violence and death threats. We had to leave everything we had behind as we struggled to escape a terrifying and escalating situation. Thankfully, after many months of waiting, we were accepted to come to the United States. It was the biggest relief I have ever felt in my life. We arrived in America in March of 2008. My uncle, who had lived here for ten years, sponsored us. I began a job at a supermarket as a deli clerk and, speaking very little English, found a one bedroom apartment for the four of us by convincing the landlord to rent to us without a security deposit. I had to work sixty-five hours a week at two different jobs to pay the rent with my brother because my parents could speak very little English and thus could not find jobs. All of my school records were lost so I had to apply for a high school equivalency diploma in order to further my education.
Thankfully, I was able to attend Family and Children’s Vocational Education program and attain my GED in November of 2008. I was then admitted to Nassau Community College in spring of 2009. Going to college and navigating the language barriers was extremely difficult but I earned a 3.94 cumulative GPA. After NCC I went to Columbia University to finish my undergraduate degree. Over the years I received scholarship funds from FCA that enabled me to continue with my education plus I was given the opportunity to meet several individuals who would become important role models in my life, including honoree Andrew Corrado, VP at Signature Bank. Mr. Corrado became my mentor and was instrumental in guiding me towards internships and teaching me strategies for creating opportunities for success.
Thanks to support from FCA, I will graduate shortly from Columbia University and will be on my way to an exciting career at Goldman Sachs. I am grateful to Family & Children’s for the guidance, support and scholarships that enabled me to continue my education and realize my dreams.
Finishing High School
I promised my daughter that one day I would finish high school and even though I’m 50 years old, I decided it was time to get my life straightened out; it hasn’t been easy. After years of relying on alcohol to make myself feel better, I had to learn to acknowledge the underlying problems that chipped away at my happiness. I also had to take a hard look at how my actions hurt those around me, especially my loved ones. Slowly I began to understand the cause and effect of my substance abuse and how if I wanted to live differently, I had to act differently.
I enrolled in your Vocational Ed program and started getting tutoring to help me in English and math. Slowly I improved in my studies and then my confidence started to improve about things like my appearance and the way I kept my home. Each day was like a new beginning, but it wasn’t always easy to string several good days together. With the help of my counselor and tutors, I’ve been able to remain sober for 14 months and am hoping to pass the high school equivalency exam and obtain my GED this coming spring.
Things are turning around for me thanks to everyone at FCA. I’m proof that you’re never too old to turn your life around.
Fighting For My Country
I was 19 when I became homeless back in 2013. My dad, stepmom and I were fighting so much that they finally asked me to leave their house. I couldn’t go live with my birth mom because she left me and my stepbrothers and sisters in the care of my stepdad who travelled for a living, leaving us alone and unsupervised much of the time.
In the beginning, I spent time ‘couch surfing’ at friends’ houses and even slept at McDonald’s because they were open 24/7. Soon it became obvious to the kids at school and my advisor that something was wrong and my advisor suggested that I go to Nassau Haven, your emergency shelter. The staff was friendly and helped me sort out my situation and suggested that since I couldn’t go home, that I might want to live at Walkabout with other young people in similar situations. There were rules and curfews but I managed to adjust and took time to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I tried college, worked at the Nautical Mile over the summer and finally decided that I wanted to fulfill a long-time dream to join the Marines. I enlisted and will go to Parris Island for boot camp. I reconciled with my family and am happy to be back on track with my plans for the future. I owe it all to FCA.
Back On My Feet
When I was 70 years old, living alone and dealing with Diabetes, I fell and injured my neck and was placed on a ventilator for six weeks. I then spent a year in rehab due to injuries related to the fall and the frost-bite I contracted while in the military. During my hospital stay, I received wonderful advice: call Family & Children’s Association upon discharge. That was three years ago, and in that time despite my physical limitations, I’ve managed to get back on my feet with your help. I enjoy regular visits from a Family & Children’s case worker who is the kind of person who would do anything to help and I also receive a visit from one of your “chore workers” who helps me with household chores.
My entire mood and attitude about life improved because I am able to stay in my home and remain independent. My case worker is an amazing individual; if there’s anything she can do to help a human being in need, no matter the cost, she’ll do it. Family & Children’s will do anything to help seniors in Nassau County and without their help, the quality of my life would be much less than it is right now. I couldn’t survive without you.
A Home Of Our Own
After years of suffering physical, financial, and emotional abuse from my husband, I finally found the strength to divorce him. After the divorce, however, I was unable to pay my bills and lost my home; suddenly becoming homeless with my two young children, one of whom suffers from Autism. All of this took a toll on my own health leaving me with multiple chronic medical conditions that limited my mobility and eventually forced me to resign from my job of over 10 years; I had hit rock bottom.
With your help, I was referred to a program that provided an in-home aid for me and my son including medical transportation as needed. Your contributions of clothing, food and back-to-school items for my children helped us to stay afloat while we awaited benefits from the Department of Social Services, Social Security and a local housing program. After 2 years of homelessness, we recently moved into a home of our own. It’s hard to explain how proud I am of being able to take care of my children again thanks to the support and guidance you’ve given me. It changed my life and the lives of my children and I’ll be forever grateful.