The UNLV MGM Public Policy Institute’s Foster Youth Initiative welcomed its first inaugural cohort this past summer and has since held workshops tailored to those who have experienced the foster care system or homelessness. The primary goal of the program is to support foster youth as they chart their course on creating their desired life.
Through a partnership between the Clark County Department of Family Services, MGM Resorts International and the UNLV Greenspun College of Urban Affairs, the program empowers foster youth to learn how to manage a dynamic and changing workplace through workforce adaptability, how to build and maintain meaningful and positive interpersonal relationships, and how to create their own vision and approach to living the life of their dreams.
“We want to make a difference in people’s lives,” Dean of the UNLV Greenspun College of Urban Affairs, Robert Ulmer said. “This is social equity. This is about helping people come out of a situation they are in and creating the life they want. Our goal is to help everybody achieve their dreams.”
The program recently held weekly workshops covering general life skills like financial planning, resume making, career building, goal planning, among a variety of other topics.
One of the main leaders of these weekly workshops was Las Vegas Raiders fullback Alec Ingold. As an adopted football player who experienced the foster care system and shares many of the experiences of these foster youth students endured, Ingold said that he loves giving back to a community that is close to home.
“I have a passion for connecting to the community and giving back. I love being a helper, an educator, and a server,” Ingold said. “Personally I have had my own hurdles to overcome in both high school and college. From trying to get recruited or get to a big school and make plays to become a starter, many of my obstacles in sports can easily be translated into life lessons.”
During last Tuesday’s seminar, Ingold focused on discussing the importance of financial planning and budgeting. Incorporating his experiences of studying personal finance and attaining a Masters in Business Administration, Ingold highlighted the connection between personal values and money through an interactive exercise.
During the money attitudes exercise, cohort participants discussed their personal finance values and what they chose to invest the money in. Some of the topics highlighted were caring for house pets, weekly grocery shopping, and methods to save money in the long run.
“We want to set you all up for success and that’s why we put a lot of thought into what we are doing and teaching,” Andrea Martinez, project manager of the MGM Public Policy Institute, said during the money attitudes exercise.
Tierra, a member of the inaugural cohort, told the Scarlet & Gray that the program has been a mind opener. “We have a lot of opportunities in front of us and it’s really about learning how to best utilize the resources we have. The program gave me the opportunity to connect with other like-minded people and gain professional information I did not have before.”
Outside of giving resources to program participants, the MGM Public Policy Institute also worked to assist cohort members with travel expenses and provided food to attend weekly workshops. Many cohort members like Tierra highlighted how this alleviated much of their struggles in trying to attend the workshops.
At the conclusion of the workshop, Lamont Valentin, a student in this year’s cohort practiced his public speaking skills and highlighted his overall experience with the program. “Coming into this class, I didn’t really know what to expect,” Valentin said. “Throughout these last few weeks, I learned so much about becoming a more critical thinker and how to strategize my life. I personally always struggled with time management, but since having that conversation in this class, I have been able to learn how to use time management and prioritize my goals.”
Looking to the future, the MGM Public Policy Institute is excited to continue hosting these interactive workshops and expanding the Foster Youth Initiative program curriculum to support more students.