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Meet Houston Missions: Operation: Achieve Independence (Mentoring Foster Kids)

On Meet Houston Missions and The Simmons and Fletcher Local Missions Podcast, your host, Paul Cannon, talks with Nicole Davis, the executive director of Operation: Achieve Independence. Operation: Achieve Independence was started in 2017 when its founder, Tina James, felt a calling from God to create a non-profit organization intended to help young adults preparing to leave or who have already left the foster care system. The mission is based out of Spring, Texas, and serves the greater Houston area by providing programs and assistance services to those needing guidance while leaving or after leaving the foster care system. Operation: Achieve Independence strives to provide assistance to people leaving foster care while allowing them to achieve the independence they desire. Operation: Achieve Independence provides transitional living support, education and career preparation programs, life skills classes, and mentorship programs to individuals leaving foster care who need a little extra help adjusting to society. Operation: Achieve Independence is open to any individual leaving foster care or who has previously been a part of the foster care system.

Operation: Achieve Independence Programs

For individuals leaving foster care, it may be difficult to know what the next steps in their life will be. When an individual leaving the system needs a bit of help figuring out what to do and how to live on their own, Operation: Achieve Independence is there to guide them in the right direction. One of the organization’s main programs is its education and career preparation program. In this program, Operation: Achieve Independence has volunteers go into high schools and work with youth aging out of foster care. The volunteers will explain the youth’s available college benefits, discuss their goals for the future, provide an insightful opinion about what the youth’s next steps should be based on their aspirations, and discuss possible colleges and trade schools the young adult could attend. Additionally, education and career preparation program representatives will visit local school districts and provide school faculty with a four-hour trauma-informed training course. The course is designed to teach school faculty about how trauma affects the way we learn and how to approach and teach a student with trauma.

Operation: Achieve Independence’s second main program is its mentorship program. In their mentorship program, volunteer mentors are matched with a mentee leaving foster care. Mentors and mentees are matched based on compatibility instead of random assignment to ensure that the mentee feels comfortable and trusts their mentor enough to turn to them as a confidant and a friend. Through the mentorship program, young adults exiting the foster care system will have somebody to turn to when they have questions about what to do next, need help figuring out how to do certain tasks, or just need somebody to talk to.

Additional Services

Operation: Achieve Independence also provides additional services such as transitional living support and life skills courses to those in need. The transitional living support service is designed to assist youth transitioning out of foster care who may not have all the tools necessary to be successful on their own. Operation: Achieve Independence’s transitional living support provides youths with the tools necessary to learn how to fill out applications for an apartment, how to budget their money, and what it takes to live on their own. Additionally, the organization provides life skills courses to those in need. Operation: Achieve Independence gathers volunteers to teach various life skills courses in a classroom/group setting or one-on-one, depending on what the young adult would prefer. These life skills courses can teach youths leaving foster care anything from cooking, sewing, and cleaning to budgeting, planning, and crocheting.

Volunteer Opportunities

Operation: Achieve Independence only has two full-time employees, so the mission heavily relies on volunteers to help provide its programs and services. As a volunteer, you might be part of the education and career preparation program where you will help youth leaving foster care learn about the benefits available to them, talk about their goals, and help set a plan for how to reach those goals. Volunteers may also serve as a mentor for an individual leaving foster care. Mentors have one-on-one relationships with a mentee and will be a confidant and a friend to their matched mentee. Additionally, people can volunteer to provide transitional living assistance or teach life skills courses to youths leaving the foster care system. As a volunteer for life skills courses, you can teach young adults about skills they may need to know to transition to an independent life or new skills that may help them in the future.

Other Ways to Help

If you want to help Operation: Achieve Independence but are unable to volunteer, there are other ways to help. One way you can help is by visiting their website and donating to the cause. On their website, click on ways to support and then donate. Their donate page lists several ways to financially support the cause, such as donating stock, becoming a monthly donor, sending one-time gifts, and donating annual gifts. Moreover, Operation: Achieve Independence also holds multiple drives you can donate to. Their two main drives are their hygiene drives, where they collect feminine products, toothpaste, deodorant, and other hygiene necessities, and their back-to-school drives, where they fill 100 backpacks with school supplies.

Additionally, Operation: Achieve Independence holds two annual events that you can attend as a way to donate to the mission. In the spring, Operation: Achieve Independence hosts a skeet shoot event at Blackwood Gun Club in Conroe, Texas. In the winter, Operation: Achieve Independence hosts a gala consisting of a dinner, speeches from board members, and a casino night at Shirley Acres in Spring, Texas.

Contact and Info

The website address is https://www.oaicares.org. On the site, you can find more information about their mission and how to donate or sign up for volunteer opportunities.

You are also welcome to call them at (281) 825-7295 or email

nicole@oaicares.org.

Operation: Achieve Independence is a 501©(3) non-profit organization. All donations made are tax deductible as per the IRS guidelines.

Meet Houston Missions and The Simmons and Fletcher Local Missions Podcast is presented by Simmons and Fletcher, P.C. Injury & Accident Lawyers. Paul H. Cannon is a partner in the firm.

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