This is Thomas’s story of his time at Crossnore and in our Youth Independent Living program.
My name is Thomas. I am 21 years old. I came to Crossnore at the age of 17 upon the recommendation of a Social Worker. Thankfully, Crossnore unhesitatingly opened their arms and welcomed me. I was able to complete my high school education at Crossnore’s charter school on their Avery campus.
I graduated several years ago, and Crossnore gifted me with a car at graduation! AND they gave me the opportunity to work and continue my education while going through their Youth Independent Living (YIL) program. I moved to their Winston-Salem campus to participate in that program. While in the YIL program, I learned how to drive, took classes, and gained valuable work experience.
My time in the Youth Independent Living program exposed me to a new community, job opportunities, invaluable life skills, and introduced me to a community-based program called Open Table. Through this connection with Open Table, I was introduced to members of the Forsyth County community who have become mentors and friends.
My “table members” have helped me in charting my path to independence. We participated in social activities together, like bowling. We also had many conversations about my future and my transition into the community. I was invited to spend time with them, and we developed friendships outside of Crossnore. This was so important since I have spent the last four years living in Crossnore communities. These friendships provided me with a social network that I did not realize I was missing.
I also participated in a program called Life Skills Reimagined in YIL. It provided me with practical skills as I prepared for my transition into the community as an adult. We covered topics like Getting and Keeping a Job, Communication Skills, Personal Finance, and Resiliency. These topics addressed emotional trauma and how to talk with my peers and coworkers. I received lessons on budgeting and how to complete a rental application. These classes were super helpful in really practical ways. I wish all people my age got these classes, whether in foster care or not!
Through a Case Management program, I interacted with my assigned case manager weekly to work on creating a plan for transitioning into the community. This plan also included how I plan to support myself financially. Crossnore was supportive – to the point of annoying me, ha! – in helping me prepare for life outside of these gates.
Twenty-one has come scarily fast. And I am not as prepared as I thought I was. But I ventured out, away from the familiarity of Crossnore, to members of my biological family with whom I kept in touch. And I secured a job in the hospitality industry!
Regardless of where I am in six months, I know I’m not alone. Crossnore’s After Care Success Program, which provides crisis support when needed, will be there to get me back on my feet if I need it. That program can also help me by providing therapy services, financial support, case management follow-up, and referrals to community resources.
Like anyone my age, I am unsure of what the future will hold. But I am sure that my experiences at Crossnore have fully prepared me. And I know that support is always just a text or phone call away. I’m so thankful to have that – a soft place to land.
The unofficial motto at Crossnore is, “Once a Crossnore kid, always a Crossnore kid.” I’m so grateful for that. It makes transitioning to adulthood just a bit less scary. I know Crossnore always has my back.
For more information on our Youth Independent Living program, visit www.crossnore.org/youth-independent-living.