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Nonprofit helps foster youth rise to their potential

Regenesis Rising helps out those who have been 'aged-out' of foster care system by giving them a place to live and mentoring them.

September 22, 2012|By Brittany Woolsey
  • People form a circle and hold a prayer blessing over Philip at his welcome home party.
People form a circle and hold a prayer blessing over Philip… (Shaun Andrews )

Phillip Blake, 20, grew up in the foster care system. As he got older, he said, he obtained a criminal record and rarely went to school. Because of his record, he also had difficulty passing background checks for jobs.

Blake said his life changed when he met Irvine couple Jeff and Lisa Myers. Because of them, Blake said he was able to find a full-time job, go to school and have a stable environment to live in.

The Myers run Regenesis Rising, a nonprofit whose mission is to help those who have "aged-out" of the foster care system.

When children from the foster care system turn 18, they are no longer qualified for the system and have to become emancipated, Lisa Myers said. Through bill AB12, the emancipated youth are given money, but it isn't enough to survive off of and the youth are given little assistance with learning how to utilize that money.

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"People usually think emancipation means freedom, like rock stars who don't want their parents involved in their lives anymore," she said. "But these kids are not choosing this lifestyle. They can't help turning 18 and being let loose without life skills, which is the biggest thing."

Jeff Myers added, "They go into this system because they've been abused, neglected or abandoned, and they're essentially abandoned again when they turn 18."

Those who age-out are also more prone to homelessness, getting arrested or getting pregnant, he said.

"Just the cost to society alone is so huge, and it's all centered around foster care," he said.

The Myers, who had previously worked in youth ministry, founded the Christian organization Regenesis Rising a year ago, on Sept. 23, 2011, along with the help of John Tumminello, the group's primary benefactor and advisory board chairman, and Elias Hakimian, a friend they met at Rockharbor Church in Huntington Beach who now serves as a board member.

"Between the ages of 18 and 25, I think we make some really important decisions in our lives that set us on a course and our decisions at those ages are critical," Tumminello said. "I think we have an obligation to these kids and society in general."

At Regenesis Rising, the youth, ages 18 to 22, are given a place to stay for a "guest fee," starting at $300 a month, and provided with a series of mentorships, including budget and everyday life skills coaches. At the end of their two-year stay at Regenesis Rising, the youth are refunded their guest fees as a means of support. The youth are also encouraged to find employment and go to school.

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