Youth Villages stories

LifeSet participant, DJ standing against a wall

LifeSet turns DJ’s goals into a reality

Apr 26, 2024 | Blog, LifeSet

Building a community support system is something 22-year-old DJ values. As an athlete, DJ knew he always had support through his track and basketball teams. “You’re building a friendly community… you can go to school and feel comfortable seeing your people,” he said.

That is exactly what Youth Villages’ LifeSet program, which is geared toward putting former foster youth in the driver’s seat, has done for DJ.

Growing up, DJ and his siblings lived with their parents, but it was not a healthy environment. A school counselor noticed there were issues going on at home.

His father, an alcoholic, had challenges controlling his emotions and ended up getting arrested. “He was arrested in front of us,” DJ said. His mother was nowhere to be found and could not be reached. DJ and his siblings were placed into state care.

Moving from placements, including foster and adoptive homes, it seemed as if DJ was always on the move. Being torn from your siblings can cause immense stress.

“It was bad because my grades were slipping, and I couldn’t play sports if they dropped,” he said. “My adoptive parents didn’t like that, so they kicked me out.”

Soon after, DJ learned his only advocate would be himself from now on. “I just remember I kept asking for programs or benefits that could help me when aging out of the foster care system.”

DJ was then placed into a stable home with guardians who had his back, and the light at the end of the tunnel became brighter.

Doors started opening up for me once I joined the Independent Living Program. They helped me with everything.

- DJ

Like many 18-year-olds, DJ had no idea what his next steps were.

“At first, I didn’t know what to do after high school,” he said. “I had so many questions, and I remember my specialists just helped me so much.”

DJ’s specialists walked by his side through every roadblock, from applying for scholarships and housing vouchers to figuring out how to register for classes.

LifeSet participant sitting down on a bench with his specialist

Once realizing all the benefits and tools that were given within the program, DJ said his ‘mind was blown.’

After DJ decided obtaining his college degree would be the next step in his journey, his specialists helped him through the application process for LifeSet Scholars, a Youth Villages program geared toward helping youth aging out of foster care earn post-secondary degrees.

“They helped me fill out FASFA and told me about the grants and scholarships I could receive,” he said.

DJ and his specialists worked together to apply for housing vouchers, and eventually, DJ was approved for his first apartment. He says even the little things can be much needed for a lot of young adults.

Now in the LifeSet Scholars program, DJ’s current specialist is Jaquelyn, who is a LifeSet alumna.

“She’s really understanding of my struggles, and she definitely helps me with that,” he said. DJ says the two’s communication has been the key to their relationship.

Today, DJ is a junior at a four-year college on track to receive his degree in economics and business management.

The LifeSet program has given DJ a community for the right support and tools to turn his goals into a reality. He often encourages others like him to speak up and take advantage of everything life has to offer.

“[This is] really big for foster kids, especially because the guidance is missing a lot of the times,” he said. “Communicate with your support [network] and take advantage of every program because there are so many benefits a lot of foster youth don’t know about.”

About Youth Villages – Oregon

In collaboration with the Oregon Department of Human Services, our services in Oregon focus on strengthening families to prevent or limit the need for out of home placements (Intercept), providing support to youth who turn 18 in foster care on their journey to adulthood (LifeSet and Independent Living Program) and offering on call behavioral health support (Specialized Crisis Services). We are currently in 12 counties across the state of Oregon and help over 750 families and young adults a year.

Help us expand our reach and build a stronger community. Donate now to support a young person like DJ.

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