HAY Center mentors help foster youth figure out life after graduation

Courtney Carpenter Image
Saturday, June 18, 2022
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A Harris County program that provides services to foster youth recently celebrated the graduation of nearly 100 local students in the foster care sys

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KTRK) -- Graduating from high school is an exciting time for most, but for youth in foster care, who are aging out of the system and trying to find their footing in the real world, it can be a stressful time too.

The HAY Center, which is a Harris County program that provides services to foster youth, recently celebrated the graduation of nearly 100 local students in the foster care system.

ABC13 spoke with Shamya Tutson-Lenette, one of those recent graduates, about the challenges of being in the foster care system and how she's facing them head-on with help.

"I've been in the system since I was three (years old). It was kind of ups and downs. It was hard for me a lot," said Tutson-Lenette.

Tutson-Lenette is now 19 years old and just graduated from Westfield High School in Spring ISD.

"I wake up feeling great that I graduated and that I am doing what I am doing right now," said Tutson-Lenette.

According to The HAY Center, only about half of all foster youth graduate high school nationwide.

"I want to make my family proud. I want to break generational curses," explained Tutson-Lenette.

Tutson-Lenette is on a mission. She is set to start at Lone Star College in the fall where she plans to become a nurse. This exciting time did not come without worry though as the transition between high school and the real world is challenging, especially for those aging out of the foster care system at the same time.

"Its like 'Am I going to have a place to stay or am I going to be in a shelter or am I going to be homeless?' It's kind of scary," said Tutson-Lenette.

Thankfully, through The HAY Center, Shamya is not going at this alone.

"She's been through a lot and I let her know, I'm not going anywhere," said Constance Sayrie, a volunteer mentor for The HAY Center.

Sayrie, an eight-year cancer survivor, says she feels she got a second chance at life and she's going to use it to help. She's now a year into mentoring Tutson-Lenette.

"Seeing someone that's successful to be a mentor motivates them because now you're their model in life," said Sayrie.

From money management to managing mental health, Connie is there for her, and just being there means a lot.

"The stuff that she does for me, she doesn't have to do. I'm thankful for that," said Tutson-Lenette.

To learn more about the program, visit The HAY Center's website.

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