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SAN JOSE, CA – Eight high school foster youth are completing a two-day paid technical training in office skills this week under the umbrella of a STEM and Work Readiness program, created in collaboration with the Santa Clara County Office of Education (SCCOE), TeenForce, Silicon Valley Children's Fund, and the Department of Family and Children's Services. Following their graduation ceremony last Thursday at The Tech Museum of Innovation, the training is preparing the students for a paid STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) internship.
"At age 24, foster youth earn an average of $690 per month, which is less than half of the average for their non-foster peers. Evidence shows that foster youth who start working during high school can increase their earning potential," said John Hogan, CEO of TeenForce. "STEM internships are a life-changing experience for foster youth, keeping them engaged in school and helping develop networks of supportive adults."
The graduating students were the first cohort to use the curriculum and strategy created by the nonprofit organization Hack the Hood, and the eighth of the overarching program. This involved 120 hours of training in website design where students created sites for different clients.
The graduation began with testimonials from program teachers, representatives from the partnering organizations, and students, all sharing overwhelmingly positive feedback about their experience during the six-week program.
"My business plan this year was to build a website that was simple, somewhat interactive, and a little different," Professional Financial Coach Mark Clark said. "I've been part of the foster movement since 2000 so having the opportunity to work with a foster youth as the web developer, I got so excited. I thought, 'What an opportunity, no matter the outcome.'"
He met with his student Ezequiel for an hour and a half two times to share his vision for the website.
"It exceeded my expectations," Clark said. "Even his first draft blew me away."
Ezequiel shared mutually positive thoughts about the experience.
"You were one of the best clients because you told me what you wanted on the website, and a lot of other students had to wait," Ezequiel said.
Mark had such a positive experience, in fact, that he asked to mentor Ezequiel in the future.
Following the presentation, students received completion certificates and a paycheck for their work before showcasing the different websites they created during the program, including the website created for Clark's business MONEYdawg $olution$. Some of the websites aren't live yet, but published websites were created for Kelly Painting and Fatherhood First Dad.
As part of an effort to address the needs of foster youth and increase access to post-secondary programs and careers, the SCCOE partners with TeenForce to provide STEM programs.
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