Youth Villages stories

Volunteer, Lelani and Youth Villages staff posing for photo holding flowers at Job Prep event

Finding purpose and giving back with volunteer Lelani Foster

Feb 21, 2024 | Blog

Lelani Foster is one of Youth Villages’ most seasoned Job Prep volunteer career coaches. Her journey with us started 14 years ago when she joined the very first Job Prep workshop in Woburn, MA as a volunteer career coach. After her wonderful experience, she continued to volunteer for Holiday Heroes and Backpack Heroes.

Today, Lelani’s commitment to Youth Villages is immeasurable and her time as a Job Prep career coach has not only inspired her, but has had a positive influence on so many LifeSet youth over the years.

What made you decide to get involved with Youth Villages?

It was the exceptional programs they offer to assist not only children in need, but also support their entire family. It made a lot of sense to me that as much as Youth Villages specialists work with a child, unless they also address the child’s environment and the family dynamic in many cases, it is tough to be successful. I loved their model of being a force for families. Also, I’m a pretty methodical person, so I was drawn to and encouraged by the story told by statistics, and I love that Youth Villages’ success and efforts are backed by proven data.

What is it like working with young adults in the Job Prep program?

To say my experience has been rewarding would be an understatement. It is so great to work with young adults who are quiet and reserved at first and watch their confidence grow as they become more comfortable with our time together. While we focus on building skills to find stable employment that can lead to identifying and building a career, I’ve found that many times, I also connect with young adults on other levels – being a sounding board for ‘life questions’, a role model to share healthy life experiences or simply just a grown-up who cares about a young adult who’s facing incredible challenges and is working to successfully overcome and prevail.

What is your favorite memory as a Job Prep coach?

One year, I connected very well with my young adult and we remained in touch after the formal Job Prep program ended. I ended up attending her high school graduation, to which her Youth Villages specialist and I were her only guests. It was a heartwarming and bittersweet experience knowing that we developed such a wonderful relationship during Job Prep and I was honored to watch her beam with pride, smile and wave to me in the crowd as she received her diploma.

Job prep volunteer, Lelani, putting a graduation cap on young woman's head

Would you recommend Job Prep to others who are looking for volunteer opportunities?

Absolutely and for so many reasons. As a volunteer, my main goal is to help others, but I would be lying if I said that it was not also important to feel like in doing so, I am making a positive difference. Being a Job Prep coach is both rewarding and easy for a working professional to fit into their schedule. I love that this particular program is not a “hit and run” volunteer dynamic and we get the time and opportunity to build relationships, not only with the young adults, but also with the other coaches and the Youth Villages team.

What is the best piece of career advice you would offer to a LifeSet young adult?  

Work hard and care. One thing I have learned over the years is to never strive to be the smartest or most successful person in the room, but if you have a strong work ethic and take pride in what you do, it will shine through. Surrounding yourself with experienced, smart and successful people and asking a ton of questions to keep learning and developing will show others how much you care, and this is often a quality that many find admirable, making you an asset to any team.


Thank you, Lelani, for your long-term dedication to helping youth in our programs and providing them with the knowledge and opportunities to excel in the working world. Your time is priceless and your impact on our young adults is immeasurable. We are grateful for your dedication to Youth Villages.

If you are interested in volunteering with the Job Prep program in Massachusetts, contact Sam Tyler for more information.

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