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Bridging the Gap Helps Rayvon Build Job Skills

Rayvon with a service dog

Foster Youth Find Jobs and Hope through Mile High United Way’s Bridging the Gap Program

Twenty two year-old Alexander “Rayvon” Spencer spent much of his life without direction or even a stable place to call home. He went from foster care to the department of youth corrections, and eventually Urban Peak, where he found shelter and support. Determined to make a better life for himself, Rayvon then enrolled in Mile High United Way’s Bridging the Gap program. Like many former foster youth, he’s never been taught how to work, nor had a role model to learn from.  Bridging the Gap addresses the challenges faced by foster youth as they transition to adulthood through coaching in financial literacy, employment skills and assistance with housing and higher education.

Today, Rayvon is enrolled in the Community College of Denver and working at Freedom Service Dogs, through Bridging the Gap’s Workplace Mentor Program. The program is funded by the Opus Foundation a partner of Mile High United Way, who supports workforce development. It provides youth with paid internships in various fields to build specific job skills and teach general employment skills. As a caretaker assistant, Rayvon is being mentored by a veterinarian and is learning about veterinary science through caring for the dogs and participating in training activities. He is also gaining experience with time management, communication and working with a team, important skills he has never had the opportunity to practice in a work setting.

“The great value working with animals at Freedom Service Dogs is seeing similarities between human and animal’s emotions due to having to overcome obstacles.”  - Rayvon Spencer

Every year in Colorado nearly 400 youth will age out of the foster care system, many of whom have nowhere to go nor the skills to get a job. Through support from Mile High United Way’s Bridging the Gap program and many community partners, youth like Rayvon are given a chance to become successful and independent adults.