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Friday photo: Welcome, Zaria!

Zaria is our first client at Buckner NextStep, a transitional living program for youth aging out of foster care on the Buckner campus in Dallas. Zaria entered foster care at the age of 13, and exited foster care when she turned 18. She moved to Dallas last year, but after leaving an unhealthy relationship, she didn’t have anywhere to go. A friend referred her to the City of Dallas Housing, where she learned about NextStep.

“I’m excited,” Zaria said. “Before, I didn’t know if I was coming or going. Now, I feel like I’m finally going forward. I had to realize that I need help, and that I can’t do it all alone.”

Zaria has big goals: she wants to become an entrepreneur and a mentor to other girls in difficult situations. But first she plans to get her GED. After that, she’ll enroll in college and begin taking business and accounting classes that will provide her with the skills she needs to own her own business one day.

“This is a good change,” Zaria said, a big smile on her face. “I know that God will be here to help me. He’s the only one who can bring unconditional joy, peace and love – all the things you expect other people to provide, but they don’t.”

NextStep Program Director Leticia Gerard feels confident in Zaria’s future. “When I met her, one of the first things I noticed was that she speaks from the soul. You can feel it,” she said. “I hope Zaria understands and knows she is worthy. She is capable of anything. I’ll guide her along the way, but it’s her responsibility to become independent.”

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