“Being part of First Place has been a blessing. They want you to shine.” Says DJ, a self-described go-getter currently working as a security guard with plans to study psychology or liberal arts once he returns to college.  

DJ thought he was taking the proper steps toward a thriving future when he graduated from high school in Santa Clara County and started college at Cal State East Bay, but like many foster youth who miss out on traditional support and guidance, DJ wasn’t set up for success. He wasn’t aware of the financial aid available to foster youth, wasn’t sure how to apply to live in the dormitories, and needed guidance to succeed in school. Lacking stable housing, he had been couch surfing, sleeping on benches, and also faced false criminal charges that limited his employment options. DJ ended up dropping out of school in the middle of his second semester. 

Knowing he needed support to get back on track, DJ researched, networked, and eventually learned about First Place for Youth. Upon entering the My First Place program, DJ moved into an apartment. As a trans man, he said having privacy in his home was essential. His team listened and found him an apartment with his own bathroom.  

Once the false charges against him were dropped, DJ’s team helped him clear his record, helping him become more employable. His team also helped to build a resume, encouraged DJ to attend job fairs, and eventually, he enrolled in a security guard training program.  

DJ said his First Place team supported him in many other ways, including prepping for his Gender Reassignment surgery. “We all worked hard changing my legal name and getting an ID. The next step is a driver’s license.” 

After completing training, DJ landed a security guard position at a FedEx facility. Importantly, a special fund at First Place helped DJ pay for transportation to and from job fairs and interviews. 

For DJ, the future looks bright; he’s saving for the first and last month’s rent for an apartment where he can move when he exits our program. He intends to finish his undergraduate degree and hopes to major in liberal arts or psychology so that he can help young people like himself someday. His younger siblings motivate him; he said he wants to be a model for them.