Oftentimes teens in foster care are the most at risk, yet the least considered.

And once youth age out of the foster care system the obstacles are daunting. According to a Harvard University Law School study, 49 percent of emancipated youth are unemployed. Fifty-eight percent do not have stable housing. Connections to Independence (C2i) is working to better the outcomes for youth and young adults in the Hennepin County foster care system.

C2i works with youth and young adults ages 14-24 to teach needed life skills and boost mental well-being for a group of individuals who have often been overlooked. C2i teaches skills such as balancing a checkbook, resume writing, securing housing and more. C2i youth also work with counselors to build trust and boost self-esteem.

Jessica Rogers, executive director of the nonprofit said the mission of C2i is critical.

“There’s no one else out here doing this work,” said Rogers. “There’s money and resources for preventing youth from entering the foster care system, but almost nothing for those currently in the system.”

Rogers said three-fourths of her funding comes from Hennepin County, but she worries because county budgets vary from year-to-year. She said a major goal is to secure more private sector dollars for the organization.

That was the impetus for the Run for the Roses Kentucky Derby party. Now in its fifth year, Run for the Roses serves as C2i’s major fundraiser and awareness campaign.  

“Run for the Roses is a great way to bring people together and bring awareness to these kids who are in need,” said Rogers. “People love to get dressed-up, come and have a great time. And while they’re there, we educate them to the plight of the youth and the impact we’re having.”

A testament to the impact of C2i, while the national average for unemployment is 49 percent, 77 percent of C2i youth are gainfully employed. More than half of C2i youth go on to post-secondary education, compared to just 20 percent nationally. Ninety-six percent maintain stable housing.

June Barker personally attest to the work being done by C2i. A staff member for the organization, Barker was once a C2i youth. She said C2i offers the family for which many seek.

“There’s no other place working with youth in foster care,” said Barker, 27, who came to C2i at 16. “The big thing is that the people at C2i really care.”

C2i’s Run for the Roses takes place Saturday (May 5) from 3 p.m. – 7 p.m. at Warehouse Winery, 6415 Cambridge St., Minneapolis. The Derby attire themed event (bright, colorful suits, dresses and hats) offers food, casino gaming, silent auction and prizes for best Derby outfit. Tickets are $35 for single tickets and $60 for a pair. They are available online at bit.ly/2pFHpfw.

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