Feliz says in her 20 years she has certainly learned life takes unexpected turns – both good and bad. She was in the foster care system multiple times as a child with a mother struggling with drug addiction. The final straw was in high school when she had just turned 14, two weeks from the end of her freshman year. She clearly remembers that she had only minutes to pack a bag with her things. The next few years blur together with her siblings hoping to stay together, moving from relative’s homes to foster group homes, and ultimately all three kids being separated. Feliz dropped out of high school. She says “in hindsight I think all foster kids are waiting for someone to come save them, but they really need to figure out that they can do this.”
Her older sister finally convinced her to “just try going back to school at Compadre High School in Tempe”. Feliz figured her life was not going to get better. She says she was not very approachable—describing herself as “shy with a big wall up”. Feliz credits teacher Sarah F. with chipping away at her wall and helping her find school success, graduating at 17. Sarah continues to be a mentor for her to this day.
At 17 Feliz received help from Trinity Opportunity Alliance’s (TOA) partner, Keys to Success, for her resume and in completing applications for part time work. Feliz got a “TOA launch package” with work clothes and shoes for her interview, and was hired at Fry’s (TOA’s employer partner) as a courtesy clerk close to her independent living group home. She describes then focusing on “a survival mode that there is more!” Stephanie, the assistant store manager, helped and encouraged her. Feliz stayed when needed, came in early, and was never late. When Feliz aged out of her group home, she moved to Laveen to share rent with others, and commuted that long distance to keep her job! She says Career Pathway at Fry’s gave her the opportunity to continue to mentor under Stephanie, and demonstrate that as an employee, she could do more. Fast forward over the last three years with Fry’s –Feliz has moved stores, with benefits and goals, and is now her store’s Assistant Front End Manager.
Feliz proudly says she owns a car, is keen to buy a house with her partner, and now knows so much more is possible. Bubbly and friendly, she is obviously a people person! Feliz says she is going to keep focused on a higher management role with Fry’s.
Feliz wants there to be more job options in Phoenix for all foster youth, adding that college just might not be the best route for all. Using her older brother as an example, she shares that he might have had success with a trade. Feliz says he was so capable with his mechanical skills but struggled in school. She describes remembering him taking apart and reconstructing computers, and anything mechanical, that if he had an opportunity with guidance for a trade, his life could turn out so much better too.
Asked if she could talk to other employers, what would she say. Feliz replied that she would encourage them to do what Fry’s is doing for foster youth: listen to your employees; let them vent to you; be a mentor; see them as individuals, not just as part of your workforce; share the Fry’s sentiment of “you can do this, you’ve got this” encouragement. Feliz reminds us that most foster youth do not have parental figures, and they tend to attach to the first adult figure in their life — good and bad. That parental figure could be their employer — be the employer who is accepting and inspiring. Feliz feels Fry’s has her best interest at heart, and she’s paying it back with her hard work and dedication.For more information about Trinity Opportunity Alliance and the work we do as a DSCUMC mission to identify, train and support potential employers to employ foster youth, visit www.toaaz.org or email Carolyn at firstname.lastname@example.org