Success stories are a part of our mission at IMPOWER. Whether it is someone overcoming substance misuse or addiction challenges by graduating from The Grove, a formerly homeless youth at The Village getting the keys to their first home, or someone experiencing a breakthrough through our outpatient behavioral telehealth programs, we see success happen each day. Below are success stories from actual clients. We hope they encourage you to step out and take the first step to recovery.
For more information on how you can change the life of individuals just like Wes and Leyla, please call (407)-215-0095. To make a donation to support IMPOWER’s life-changing programs please click here.
Wes: A Village Success Story
Weslet (“Wes”) came to The Village in 2018 from a Boys Town Central Florida program that shelters children who can no longer live in their homes and are in foster care. He had just turned 18 and was aging out of the foster care system — although he would collect extended foster care (EFC) benefits, minimal as they are, for another two years.
For the hundreds of young people like Wes who transition out of foster care in Central Florida every year, the future can be perilous and uncertain. Having not had enough family support to build a foundation for success, the odds are stacked against them. Statistics show that 40% will experience homelessness. 25% will be arrested or incarcerated. 50% will not graduate high school on time and fewer than 5% will earn a bachelor’s degree.
Like many in his circumstances, Wes had struggled with his education. He was having difficulties obtaining his GED diploma. However, while he knew education was important, he made finding employment his top priority. It was critical in his quest to be self-sufficient.
While at The Village, Wes worked in several jobs, including fast food, delivering and setting up appliances in homes and for a granite supplier.
He benefitted from regular case management, counseling, life skills classes and a dose of “tough love” from staff. One lesson he learned especially well was the importance of budgeting and saving money. Through his hard work and ability to put much of what he earned away, he saved enough money to purchase his own vehicle with cash.
Wes obtained his OSHA 30 certification so that he could demonstrate to employers that he could follow all the rules and regulations OSHA requires in construction related industries. He is currently working, and enjoying, his job doing carpentry with a local company.
In the summer of 2021, at age 20, Wes picked up the keys to his own apartment, not without some trepidation. By the time to transition out, he had enough money saved to pay for his application fee, security deposit and first/last month’s rent for his apartment. His extended foster care benefits would end as he was deemed able to be entirely on his own. The length of Wes’s stay at The Village – 31 months — was longer than the average Village youth. However, factors included his young age at entry and also the COVID pandemic, during which most residents lost their jobs and found their goals somewhat derailed.
Wes’s future aspirations include continuing to work on his GED at Winter Park Tech (he has just a few required classes to take now) and continuing in employment, such as his current job, where he has the opportunity to work with his hands.
“I’m very proud of him,” says Village Program Director Reggie Palmer. “When he came to us he had a long way to go and facing being on his own was extremely hard for him. However, because of his resiliency and an ability to maintain employment, he understands that he is going to be just fine. The beauty of The Village is that even when our young people transition out they are still a part of us. He knows our door will always be open to him.”
It has been a long journey of highs and lows but the future looks promising for Wes because of the stability and skills he obtained through The Village Program.
Leyla: A Happy Ending
By the time Leyla entered the dependency system in October 2012 she had endured so much. She was sad and felt lost. As a result she became completely resistant to idea of being adopted. She didn’t want to be hurt by a family again. She planned instead to remain in her foster home placement until she aged out and could simply be on her own.
The Adoptions Team at IMPOWER, however, knew the benefits of finding Leyla a forever family and weren’t going to give up.
As part of his role, Adoptions Recruiter Bill Marallo, routinely reviewed prospective adoptive parents who might be a good match. One day something caught his eye. Trina Nicholson, a woman who had just completed an adoptive home study was seeking a child between 2-8 years of age. Although her criteria didn’t exactly fit, he felt like they could be a good match and asked her to review Leyla’s information. After doing so, she wanted to meet Leyla. Shortly after, they arranged a visit and found there was an immediate connection.
Over the weeks and months that followed, Trina, her son Daunte and Leyla continued to meet and build their relationship. Slowly Leyla began to consider the idea of a “family” again. Things weren’t always easy throughout the process. At one point, Trina lost her housing and her car broke down, but she remained committed to Leyla and always found a way to continue to see her.
By September 2014, Trina was back on her feet in a rental home and Leyla was formally placed with her – in anticipation of their adoption date on February 3, 2015. A few weeks later Leyla, Trina and Daunte made their last trip to the courthouse. They were surrounded by all those who had been part of their journey to celebrate their new, official forever family.
Maddy: A Journey to Success
Living in homeless shelters and relying on food banks had been a way of life. When she was seven, she lost her mom to drugs, and at 11, her dad to alcohol. With his death, she says she also lost “all hope, motivation and her faith in God”. He hadn’t been perfect but he had tried. He had played a major role in helping her become into the person she is growing into today.
Maddy and her brothers had been in and out of foster care since being removed from their father’s care where she was seven. Being adopted by her “papa” (grandfather) at 15 was a happy day, but when he died a year later from cancer, she was back in the system, where she remained until 18.
When she was a senior in high school, Maddy heard about The Village. She had no idea where she was going to live when she aged out of the system or how she could ever make enough money to pay rent.
The day she was accepted into the program, she says a “weight was lifted off” her back. Although she had moved in with some possessions, she was surprised at how much The Village did for her. Not only did she get a bed … but it was already made! It made her cry.
Maddy admits she “pushed boundaries a lot” during her early days at The Village. She was irresponsible. She didn’t know how to handle money. The life skills she learned at The Village taught her so much she didn’t know about banking, saving and budgeting.
Her favorite memory at The Village was the beautiful holiday party in December 2021. “It made me feel like family.” “Mr. Reggie” (the program director) “is like a father figure to me” she says and other staff have also been a wonderful support system. “I love them like family”.
With all the love, long talks, support and encouragement she found at The Village, Maddy finds herself in a much better place today. She has a job in the food industry and is saving to buy a car. Although she loves The Village and her Village ‘family’ she also looks forward to moving out and living on her own one day, as well as having the ability to help her family.