Foster youth need mentors now more than ever; San Antonio nonprofit asking for volunteers

Support necessary for kids transitioning from foster care to adulthood

SAN ANTONIO – The transition from foster care to adulthood can be terrifying and even dangerous, sometimes leading to homelessness, trafficking, or unplanned pregnancy.

It’s a crucial time when foster youth desperately need support, and it’s not always available.

Growing up in and out of foster care since age six, enrolling in college was a big deal for 21-year-old Heidi Leal.

As she did, smiling by her side was Lauren Jones, her mentor from the THRU Project, an organization bridging the gap between foster care and adulthood.

“These years right now are going set her up for the rest of her life, so I try to make it as helpful as I can,” Jones said.

Leal said Jones has helped ease the stress of becoming independent.

“She helped me go to college, she’s teaching me banking accounts, she taught me how to bake, cook,” Leal said.

They have a blast together: painting, working out, dressing up for Halloween.

They both wanted to share about their special friendship to encourage others to offer their time and skills to foster youth.

The THRU project currently supports 160 youth that have mentors, but they have 15 more about to join and no one available to mentor them.

Staff members say finding mentors is no easy task during a pandemic.

“It’s been really difficult. We’ve even lost a couple mentors because of the pandemic as well. It is hard to go out there (and) recruit,” said THRU Project Lead Program Coordinator Alexis Lara.

Leal wants people to know her life is changed forever because of her mentorship.

“I feel like I’m not alone because I have people that support me and are there for me,” Leal said.

To mentor, you have to be over 24, take a two-hour training class with the THRU Project, a trauma-informed care training for the Department of Family and Protective Services, and undergo a background check. They ask that you remain a mentor for at least one year.

If you’re interested in volunteering, contact the THRU Project on their website or call (210) 852-0220.


About the Authors:

Courtney Friedman is a KSAT anchor and reporter. She has an ongoing series called Loving in Fear, confronting Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She's also covered Hurricane Harvey, the shootings in Sutherland Springs and Santa Fe, and tornadoes throughout Texas. She’s a California native and proud Longhorn who loves calling SA home.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.