Mentoring Matters: Help & Hope For Kids Aging Out Of Foster Care

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Angela Pomaski has a gift for art.

“I’ve always kind of liked art,” she said.  “I think my first words were something about music.”

Art has helped her through childhood and teen years that have at times been difficult.

“I ended up in foster care for the first time when I was seven, and stayed there until I was nine,” said Pomaski.  “I actually didn’t know why I was there.”

Circulating through the foster care system for years, and now back in foster care, Pomaski recently turned 18, making her one of about 600 youths aging out of foster care at any given time in Broward County, entering a very adult world.

Anne Gardiner, Vice President of Programs for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward County said a quarter of those teens end up homeless within a year.

Pomaski is eligible for a housing stipend and other resources through programs like True North, but meeting the requirements can be challenging.

“The reality is, although they are adults at 18, they’re young adults; they’re still children, and they need help in being able to navigate the stress and the pressure,” said Gardiner.  “You have to keep a certain GPA when you’re going to school, you have to be able to show that you’re showing stability, that you’re not getting in trouble with the law and that you’re really staying focused, and that’s hard for any young adult, let alone someone coming out of foster care who doesn’t already have a support system in place.”

That is why it helps to have a champion in their corner.  That’s what Carol Bennett is for Pomaski.

Bennett recently retired from a greuling work schedule in the technology industry.  Now, she is using her time to give back, mentoring Pomaski.

“She has a lot of dreams, and she seems very together,” said Bennett.  “She’s smart about how she’s wants to tackle it.  She wants to go to school, she wants to work in the computer field, which is a good match for us, but in a way that she can incorporate her artistic desires.  So, she’s very sweet, a little shy, but very open to ideas about different things we can do and different ways we can get to know each other.  Actually, I think we are both going to help each other.”

The two were recently matched through Big Brothers Big Sisters of Broward County.  They are still getting to know each other, but they have already found common ground through art.

“She’s very interested in art,” said Bennett about Pomaski.  “She’s actually very, very talented.  She knows what she wants to do, she has a clear head about her, and I’m very excited about the future relationship that we are going to build.”

Pomaski seems to feel the same way about her mentor.

“She’s really cool,” said Pomaski.  “We both like art and computers and everything.  We went to a museum the first time we got to hang out.  It was nice.  We went out to eat.  We had some fish sandwiches.  We were talking about architecture and everything.  There was a fair in front of the museum, and we were walking around trying to find places where we could volunteer, like animal shelters.”

Pomaski is now studying to get her GED, and Bennett is excited to help her navigate the challenges of moving out on her own and continuing her studies.

She wants to attend college to study graphic design and programming, a goal Bennett, who spent 25 years as the director of technology for American Express, can help her with.

They are working to put together a portfolio of graphic designs to apply for scholarships and competitions.

“I’m hoping that we can do different activities that are just fun, and maybe she can teach me more things on the computer, like coding or something like that,” said Pomaski.

Big Brothers Big Sisters continues to work with young people transitioning out of the foster care system until the age of 23, and the organization is looking to make a long-term impact on foster youth in Broward County, always looking for volunteers willing to pass along life skills, career opportunities, guidance or simply friendship.

“Don’t be afraid, give it a try,” said Bennett.  “It’s rewarding just to be able to help a young person.  And even if it’s not mentoring, there are many other ways to give back to the community, so just get involved.”

If you are a mentor and would like to share your story with us, please email us at mentoringmatters@cbs.com

Click here for more Mentoring Matters

More from Rudabeh Shahbazi
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