In July, First Place for Youth and representatives of United Airlines hosted Los Angeles news media and community partners at our South Los Angeles office for an employment fair and a joint press conference announcing the airline’s $1 Million grant supporting of our My First Place program in Southern California. This grant, to be administered over the next four years, will support the expansion of our My First Place program, allowing us to help more young people on the path to finding a place to call home, a career that sustains them, and long-term success in life.

Among those speaking at the event was Katie, a current program participant, who shared how working with her First Place team keeps her motivated and on the right track to reach her goals.

Katie speaks to our guests about why First Place matters to her

“Each of my First Place team play a big role in my life,” she explained. “Imoni [Youth Advocate] is there for me all the time, always making sure I have what I need to stay focused. She gets me and knows exactly what I need, just like a big sister. Daniel [Education & Employment Specialist] stays on top of me about school, and he never backs down. Kim [LA Social Work Lead] is a good spirit in my life, a light in my day every day.

“When I think about First Place in my life, it is so much more than just giving me and other youth a roof over our heads.” Katie continued They make sure that I’m doing well in school… taking care of business, that I connect with jobs, and that I pay and put money into my rent savings. They give us a chance to know what it’s like to pay our own bills, to get our own food, but they don’t leave us alone. They make sure we have the abilities to do things.”

Also stepping up to the microphone was LA City Council President, Herb Wesson, who spoke about the hopelessness and resignation that often felt by those struggling with homelessness and the need to raise awareness and build a larger coalition of people working for positive change. He called on those present to continue their efforts and to reach out and recruit others because, “Each and everyone of us must do more for all of the Katies in the world.”

For the many of those in attendance doing more began immediately as the event transitioned from press conference to employment fair. United employees met with First Place youth to answer questions about the careers available in the travel industry and offer practical help from interview coaching to tie-tying. Representatives from other community partner organizations, including Art + Practice, the Los Angeles LGBT Center, the Coalition for Responsible Community Development, and Los Angeles Metro were on hand to provide our young people with information about programs and career opportunities available to them.

Youth and staff were also able to speak directly to local news media to discuss why the work that First Place does is so important, and what it means to know that there are people who have your back and want you to succeed.

Thank you again to all our partners who helped to make the day a success, and especially to United Airlines for joining us in our mission to give foster youth the opportunity to achieve their full potential and prove that more is possible.

For photos and reactions from the day, keep scrolling!