Summer internship program sets up foster teens for success

For most teenagers, summer is the time to get a small taste of life beyond school with a summer job or internship.

Embrace Families works to give that same opportunity to teenagers in the foster care system.

For the second year, the nonprofit foundation is hosting its Career Builder Summer Internship. This year, 11 local companies in the Orlando area came on board with the program to give teens in the foster care system a chance to experience trade jobs.

One of those teens is Tristan. He’s interning Monday through Friday for a windows and doors company in Sanford.

“I feel like kids in foster care would work harder than any other kid because they’ve been through more,” the 16-year-old said.

“If you take a chance on any other kid, if anything, we have more experience, we’ve grown up quicker.”

The president of Weathermasters hired Tristan, and said he’s shown a high level of interest in learning about the job.

“He’s a hard worker, he’s really trying to soak in the knowledge,” Janeen Swanson said.

“He’s just so easy to get along with and I’m just really impressed with how much drive he has. I think he’s going to be very successful in life.”

Weathermasters is one of the partners working with Embrace Families to provide this life-changing opportunity for teens interested in learning about trade skills like carpentry or electrical work.

“Maybe they don’t want to go to college, maybe they need to learn a trade, and in our industry we are always looking for trade people, you know, some of the older people are aging out in this industry,” Swanson said.

She says from the first moment she met Tristan, she knew he would be a perfect fit when he took his glove off from his right hand to greet her.

“That was my first impression, I thought ‘this kid is gonna be great,’ she said. “It showed respect and it showed that he was interested in being here. That was so impressive to me.”

Embrace Families mission is to give teens in foster care a chance to explore other jobs and help them see they have a future beyond the foster care program.

“There’s a labor shortage that’s there. We have youth that are interested in that kind of hands-on work, that aren’t sure right now if college is the right choice for them,” Danielle Levien, communications manager for the nonprofit said.

During the two-month internship, the interns also learn soft skills like arriving to work on time and about office etiquette. Tristan has already learned some of these important details.

“[I’ve learned] how to control myself around the environment, how I should act, when’s the right time to make jokes, when’s not the right time,” Tristan said.

Embrace Families say Tristan is setting a positive example and showing the community the potential kids in the foster care system have.

“A lot of what we see is that people think kids in the foster care system are bad kids because there’s so many misconceptions and stigma that’s out there when that’s really not the case,” Levien said.

Credit for this story goes to: Carolina Cardona, WKMG 6