Julius, a My First Place alumnus, joined the program when he was 22 years old after his sister introduced him to First Place for Youth. In honor of Foster Care Awareness Month, Julius shared how having a safe place to live and a caring support system empowered him to achieve his full potential. Thank you, Julius, for sharing your story with us!  

My name is Julius Harper and I was put in the foster care system at the age of 12 years old. Now, I am 30 years old and I have been working in banking for 10 years thanks to First Place for Youth and all the resources they connected me to. Without them, I don’t know where I would be. 

I lived with my great-grandmother until my mom took custody of me and my sister once I turned 10 years old. The court had given my mom custody of us because they thought my grandmother was getting too old to take care of us. When my mom had custody of us for about two years, everything went downhill. She attempted to fight my sister, so the police were called, and they took me and my sister out of her care. I went to a foster home and my sister went to a group home. We lost contact since we were separated and placed in different homes and we were only able to meet up at my grandmother’s for family get-togethers. 

Julius pictured with Erica Waterford in 2014.

In 2014, my sister moved to Oakland, CA and she told me about this program that helps foster kids called First Place for Youth. She told the housing specialist that she had a brother who needed housing. So, one day, I went to the orientation where they gave me information about the program. The staff member who interviewed me at that time told me, “Hey, you’re a great fit for this program” so I joined, and I’ve been thriving ever since.  

My Youth Advocate helped me find a job and secure housing. I’ve always wanted to work at Wells Fargo, so my advocate helped me to build a resume and ran in-depth practice interviews to help me prepare. We practiced and practiced and I finally got the job after two tries.  

I stayed in the My First Place program for two years and then volunteered with the Youth Advisory Board for three years to gain work experience and spread awareness about foster care. At the time, I also volunteered at the Center for Youth to mentor other youth outside of the programs. Volunteering was very memorable for me because we got to go to different places like Great America, Cheesecake Factory, etc. But what I liked most was building relationships and connections with other people. I still hang out with and have become best friends with some of the people I met in the program.  

All the thanks to each staff member who supported me!