Arizona Giving and Leading: Keys to Success

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At any given time there are 16-thousand children in foster care in Arizona. We will take a look at “Keys to Success,” a program that helps kids aging out of the foster care system succeed in the rest of their lives.

Video: A long and isolated stretch of state route 80, southeast Arizona, monument to one of the most important events in Arizona history. Off the highway, skeleton canyon, where the Apache warrior Geronimo and their followers surrendered to general miles. It was early September, 1886. With the surrender, armed conflict between the Apaches and European immigrants ended. Geronimo, his followers, and the entire tribe, the Apache scouts the army had hired to track him down were deported east to Florida. Geronimo lived until 1909, gaining notoriety at public appearances, in Teddy Roosevelt's inaugural parade yet he and his people were never allowed to return to the Beloved Arizona homeland. Only -- did the governor and state welcome them back after 100 years of exile.

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Ted Simons: In tonight's look at Arizona giving and leading, we focus on the foster care system in Arizona. At any given time, there are 16,000 children in foster care. Producer Shawna Fischer and photographer Miguel Val Verde introduce us to an organization helping foster kids succeed.

Shawna Fischer: For amber Lepur and Kaileb wyatt, the future no longer seems an unattainable dream. Both grew up as foster children. Because of a program called keys to success, the teens are now on an extraordinary path.

Amber Lepur: I'm going to be successful. I am very determined to live my life the way I want to and to help other people.

Shawna Fischer: Keys to success helps teens transitioning out of the foster system. Director Diane daily says it is a chaotic time and kids in this phase are often doing what she calls the concrete walk.

Diane Daily: They're walking through life with their face buried in what the next step is. Just getting through the next step. And we are helping them to do that chin tilt and look into the future. To envision themselves five years, 10 years down the road. What do they see for themselves?

Shawna Fischer: Daily helps the teens identify their strengths and teaches them skills like interviewing and writing. The teens are connected with local companies offering paid internships. Amber works at a law office, while studying occupational therapy in college. Kaileb, who has always had an interest in computers, is at a software company.

Kaileb Wyatt: Right now, I'm building servers and doing a lot of research to get more certifications so that I can build my way up to that regular desk job and hopefully beyond that.

Shawna Fischer: Keys to success is part of the nonprofit Arizona friends of foster children foundation.

Kris Jacober: So, 32 kids are going to come in to foster care in Arizona today. And tomorrow, the same thing, and then the next day the same thing. Right now, we're doing this interview, whenever the show airs, somebody is picking up a kid, putting them in the back of a police car or DCS car, taking them to an office where they may or may not be able to stay with their siblings. One may be in the east valley. One may be at a group home on the west side, and they have no voice about what happens next in their life.

Shawna Fischer: The goal of executive director Kris Jacober and her staff is to make sure that foster children do have a say in their lives and have the same opportunities as other children. For 30 years, they have provided funding so that foster kids can have a music lesson or participate in a club sport. All at no cost to the foster child or their guardian.

Kris Jacober: There is also research that shows that kids in foster care benefit from extracurricular activities. It helps them interact with adults in a meaningful way and helps them get exposed to the community. Sometimes it helps them keep their grades up.

Shawna Fischer: With keys to success, Arizona friends of foster children is able to get older kids to look up from the concrete and see the road to success ahead of them.

Kaileb Wyatt: Definitely see myself building upon the I.T. career and want to save up a lot of money, get myself set up well to where I can do the things that I want to do and, you know, kind of do me -- I know it sounds a little selfish, but, you know, I just want to be happy.

Amber Lepure: I see a very bright future in front of me. Not because people want that for me, it's because I want it for myself.

Ted Simons: Arizona friends for foster children receives very little funding from the state. But the Arizona foster care tax credit allows for donations up to $400 as an individual or $800 as a family. For details on that tax credit, check out the Arizona friends for foster children web site. Friday on "Arizona Horizon," the "Journalists' Roundtable." Governor's push for a new inspector general position gets some push-back. And the wait continues for details of the governor's plan to fund charter school waiting lists. Those stories and more Friday on the "Journalists' Roundtable." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Video: "Arizona Horizon" is made possible by contributions from the friends of eight, members of your Arizona PBS station. Thank you.

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