OAKLAND: A group of young adults from Alameda County's foster care system have received special achievement diplomas at a graduation ceremony in the County.
The group of 18 local residents, between the ages of 18-24 received their diplomas in the chamber of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in Oakland on Friday.
Each of the graduates spent six months working in positions within Alameda County as part of the New Beginnings Fellowship Program which provides interns with on the job experience within county departments and teams up each participant with a county manager to act as a mentor and visualize their career goals.
The ceremony included the traditional passing of diplomas and photo opportunities for graduates and their families.
"They came up with the right name for this program, because for me it really has been a new beginning," said Arthur Savangsy, who is currently transitioning to his own independence after living in a group home outside the Bay Area.
"The program has helped me get the confidence to go after what i want, and it has put me in contact with people who can help me get there," he added.
During a heartwarming ceremony some of the graduates made speeches, in which they continually referred to each other as 'family' and a 'support network' that they can call upon in the future.
"I can open up to you," Miranda McGee told her fellow graduates while wiping away a tear.
The program is provided in partnership with Beyond Emancipation, an Oakland based nonprofit that serves current and former foster youth throughout the county with the transition to independent adult living.
This is the third year that Alameda County has sponsored the fellowship program which provides paid employment for interns in 12 County departments.
This year was the first year that the scheme was expanded from two to six months in duration. This was done to give participants more time to refine job skills learned and to build better industry networks.
About the program
The program was launched by County Administrator, Susan S. Muranishi, backed by support from the Board of Supervisors and elected department heads.
It began over five years ago with the establishment of several Fresh Start Cafes within county buildings in Oakland, Castro Valley and San Leandro. A further cafes opened at the REACH Ashland Youth Centre. These outlets provide employment for young adults who have had contact with the juvenile justice and foster care systems.
County workers who served as supervisors said there was a mutual, two-way benefit for all involved in the fellowship. Several of them spoke of the energy, intelligence and the work ethic that that the participants brought to the job.
However, probation supervisor at San Leandro Juvenile Justice Center, Mykeisha Lewis addmitted that some staff had a lukewarm reaction when they learned that the New Beginnings interns were coming on board.
"When you are busy everyday at your job, it is very easy to feel that you just don't have time to be teaching interns," she said.
"Then one day you see your intern showing your employees what to do and you come to appreciate how valuable they can be."
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