THRU Project, TNOYS’ newest member organization, was created after CEO Elaine Andries Hartle saw personally the lack of mentorship available to youth aging out of foster care to help them navigate the realities of adult life. “In my efforts to help my own teenage foster sons I learned about the resources available to them and none of it made sense compared to what the outcomes were for these kids,” she said.
She launched THRU Project in 2011 in an effort to provide these much-needed resources, by matching youth transitioning out of care with a trusted, reliable adult to help guide and support them as they live independently. The program, which operates in Bexar County and the surrounding areas, recently matched its 100th youth with a volunteer mentor. They’ve seen great outcomes for the youth in their program, and have even attracted the attention of local PAL workers who have noticed the difference their work is making in the youth’s lives.
The program has continued to expand and offer additional support to the youth it serves, including bus passes and cell phones. These resources are key to helping them stay connected to their mentors and better able to fulfill their school and work responsibilities. And at the beginning of 2018, THRU Project received a grant for a pilot housing program that provides apartments to youth in the program rent-free for a year. During that year, they are able to learn skills to live independently while saving money and building credit that will provide a solid financial foundation as they transition into adulthood. There are currently 10 youth enrolled in the program and the organization is working with local government in an effort to expand it.
As the organization continues to grow, Andries Hartle says that one of the biggest challenges is reaching the youth in need of services to make them aware of the program. As TNOYS has worked with organizations on advancing youth engagement efforts, it has become clear that reaching youth in need is not an uncommon challenge.
For THRU Project, joining the TNOYS network provides an opportunity to connect with other organizations to learn about their best practices and lessons learned in this area. Andries Hartle pointed to TNOYS’ Annual Conference this past June as being a good opportunity to do this. “I was very impressed with the first conference and the people that attended, how well everyone really wants to work together to improve their agencies and work with other agencies,” she said. TNOYS looks forward to having THRU Project in our network and learning from and with them as they continue to grow.