We are thankful for Kinia.
As we approach the holiday season, we want to remember all the amazing work JCCA staff do to repair the world, child by child. Until Thanksgiving, we’ll be taking some time each day to highlight a member of our inspiring team. As the days get shorter and colder, we hope these stories will be a source of brightness and warmth.
Education Coordinator, Foster Home Services
Kinia Gonzalez, JCCA Foster Home Services Education Coordinator, has consistently shown tremendous dedication and resolve in enabling foster teens to get a college education.
When children enter foster care, their lives are completely disrupted. Separated from their families often for the first time, they face garden-variety challenges of all incoming freshmen, but without the support of family. This can snowball into poor academic performance, behavioral issues and lower graduation rates for foster teens. Kinia connects our young people in foster care with tutoring and scholarships, and provides one-on-one college counseling and ongoing support. Despite the odds, Kinia has guided 35 JCCA teens in foster care to college enrollment this year, making JCCA one of the top provider agencies supporting post-secondary education of foster children in New York City.
For Kinia, this is not just a job or a way to earn a living. This is about transforming a young person’s future and opening a path to success. It is her mission. For almost three years, Kinia has dramatically increased the college retention rate of JCCA’s teens in foster care. Statistically, less than 10 percent of young people in foster care graduate college nationwide. (Source: Foster Care to Success). Kinia has developed creative strategies to increase educational outcomes for JCCA’s kids. She knows it is not enough to deal with the academic and financial obstacles. She uses the trauma-informed, problem-solving framework of the Sanctuary model to deal with a young person’s doubts and fears.
As a result of Kinia’s efforts, JCCA’s college persistence rate (teens who stay in college) is almost 80 percent! By staying in frequent phone, text and email communication with our young people, Kinia becomes their mentor for dealing with college struggles and stressors.
Cy Orfield, Vice President of Foster Home Services, says, “Kinia has developed a supportive relationship with all our teens. She has not only assisted many of them in applying to and getting into college, but continues to support them once they have matriculated at college so they don’t give up. Because of our kids’ history of separation and trauma, they tend to give up at the first sign of failure or resistance, but Kinia teaches them to persevere. She is truly changing lives for the better.”
“The young people I help through college have so much on their plates,” adds Kinia. “They have a full-time job and are dealing with living on their own at the age of 18. AND they’re going to school full time, while maintaining a GPA of 3.0. That’s a lot for anybody, let alone teenagers on their own who have had a traumatic background. I am so proud of them when they persevere. It makes me very happy.”