Youth Villages stories
Through LifeSet and LifeSet Scholars, Zoe builds his future
Young people who turn 18 in foster care are resilient and want to become successful adults. Zoe, entered state custody at 14 years old and moved around a lot before “aging out.”
“I never really unpacked my clothing because I moved so much. I kept it in whatever bag I could find,” he says. “But, my experience in foster care isn’t full of pity, but instead of growth. In the end, the system connected me with peers and mentors from Youth Villages who have shaped me into who I am today.”
Zoe has had many hardships, but when faced with leaving the foster care system without a plan for the future or solid support, he knew he needed help. He learned about the LifeSet program through Extension of Foster Care in Tennessee and started receiving LifeSet services at the age of 17.
The LifeSet program helped Zoe prepare for his transition into adulthood, which included finding employment at Waffle House, getting car insurance and also entering the Genesis College Master Barber program.
Zoe, like many of the young people in the LifeSet program, has been hit hard by COVID-19. In Nashville, where Zoe lives, a third of LifeSet youth lost their employment due to the pandemic. Many did not qualify for unemployment assistance or stimulus checks and are still struggling daily to have their basic needs met. Youth Villages has joined more than 270 other organizations, backing bipartisan legislation that would provide targeted financial relief for transition-age young people.
The Waffle House Zoe worked at closed because of the pandemic. To make ends meet, Zoe has been giving haircuts at home, which does not count toward his practical hours, but is a way to bring in some income. Zoe is also a gifted painter and has sold some of his artwork to help pay the bills. He even picks up shifts for Door Dash, the food delivery service, when money is tight.
Since he has not been able to get hours for his Master Barber certification, Zoe decided to go back to school.
“I have always wanted to own my own business, maybe a barber shop or tattoo shop,” he said. “Since I can’t complete my hours for my barber certification at the moment, it is a good time to go back to school to learn about business.”
Zoe was recently accepted into the LifeSet Scholars program, with the help and encouragement from Brianna, his LifeSet Specialist. He enrolled at Nashville State and is pursuing an associate’s degree in business administration. The LifeSet Scholars program provides support and assistance to selected LifeSet youth pursuing higher education.
Zoe’s new goal, in addition to school and his Master Barber Certification, is to get an LLC. Currently, his LifeSet specialist is helping him with the application.
“LifeSet has allowed me to network and make connections with other youth, similar to me and from completely different walks of life,” Zoe said. “The program has given me tremendous support and guidance and has kept me motivated to reaching my goals.”