Latrenda Leslie, 22
Beyond Emancipation (B:E) has been a huge support to me during my transition to adulthood. B:E is truly an organization that provides wholehearted services and cares about those that they serve. I began receiving services at the age of 18 and I continue receiving services at the age of 22. Over the years, I have become blown away with how B:E operates as an organization that exceeds expectations of other programs I have come into contact with as a former foster youth. Currently, I am participating in the coaching services that B:E provides.
Coaching is a benefit that I have become absolutely fascinated with. When I leave a coaching session, I feel empowered. I feel like an amazing person and capable of conquering any obstacle. Coaching has allowed me to see my life through a profound lens. What I love about coaching is, I am challenged to think outside of the box. By doing this, I have found new forms of creativity.
My Coach allows me to take control of my coaching session. This method encourages me to take control of my life as a whole. I was so accustomed to letting others make decisions for me. I was always worried about making others happy, neglecting my happiness. “Latrenda was the last of my worries.” I look forward to coaching to be able to put myself first! “Who is Latrenda?” “What does Latrenda want/need?” “How is Latrenda going to put herself first?” “If you were someone else, “What would you say to Latrenda?” These are the kinds of questions my coach may ask me to encourage me to focus on Latrenda.
I have grown in many ways, thanks to coaching. Due to my growth in coaching, I have developed an interest to be a coach. B:E was very supportive of me learning to become a coach. My coach began to teach me how to be a coach. I have had the honor to successfully complete a training with B:E as a Youth Coach Contractor. As well as support my peers and management staff with the new skills I have developed from coaching sessions.
B:E has been a place that I view as home during the last three years. I am happy that I’m able to be apart of the family at a different capacity.
Gilbert: Ready to Fly
Gilbert Pizano appreciated the lack of small talk when he met with B:E’s Director of Coaching Leslie Brown for his first life coaching session.
“I couldn’t even say how she does it,” Gilbert says. “It’s just what she does. She gets straight into it. After the first session, you leave knowing you just dug so deep into your life for the first time. It’s like ‘Wow.’”
Through B:E’s life coaching, Gilbert discovered a whole new way of thinking.
“Leslie creates a safe, comfortable space but at the same time, she’s always making you think,” says Gilbert. “If I see something, I might think, ‘I can’t afford that,’ and go into mental laziness. And what she’ll do is turn it to, ‘How can I afford that?’”
Applying this philosophy, Gilbert says, “had a lot to do with me blossoming and having the belief in myself that I can do this, with my job and with my life.”
Now 21, Gilbert came to B:E when he was 18, and, according to Transition Specialist Angely Miranda, “took advantage of every opportunity presented to him.”
“She was my go-to person,” says Gilbert. “If I needed employment or educational resources, I’d go see Angely.” With her support, Gilbert applied for a position in the Youth Advocate Program, where he advocated on behalf of foster youth.
“Through that job, I learned I’m a public speaker,” Gilbert says. “I’m a trainer and a facilitator. I love doing these things, and I make changes in people’s lives through my words and my experiences.”
Now a Program Coordinator at PEERS, where he facilitates art-based workshops and prepares young people with mental health challenges to do public speaking, Gilbert visits B:E whenever he can. “I built close connections there,” he says.
In addition to his job at PEERS, Gilbert enjoys photography and earns additional income by doing network marketing for Legal Shield, a side job he especially likes because “it provides an affordable way for former foster youth – who face a lot of legal issues, including identity theft – and others to access legal services.”
“You can do anything if you set your mind to it,” says Gilbert. “I make great income. I’m not rich but I’m making more than a lot of other 21-year-olds, and the purpose of me saying that is to let other foster youth know… don’t let what society thinks you are become who you are on the inside, and don’t let the negative people run your life.”
Recalling his teen years, Gilbert says, “I was told I was going to fail, I was told I was on a negative path, and at the time, I believed them because I was already doing bad. And all it took was me accepting who I was and having support. Now I love me … With B:E, they really support you to feel like you’re ready to fly off that branch into adulthood.”