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Program gives foster youth a chance at success

Carlos Lopez practices playing the trombone in the halls of Bakersfield High School in Bakersfield, Calif., March 17, 2017. (KBAK/KBFX photo)

There are more than 400,000 children in the United States that are living in foster care. According to promises2kids.org, only half of them will receive high school diplomas.

A local school program is working to increase those statics by offering foster students additional support through a program called Y.E.S., which stands for Youth Empowering Success.

Carlos Lopez is an outspoken senior at Bakersfield High School who also plays a mean trombone.

He said he is always looking for ways to better himself, and what you would never know by just looking at him is he has spent most of his life in foster care.

"For me, it was pretty hard trying to go home to a foster home everyday, not knowing the people I was with, and asking them for help was nearly impossible,"said Lopez.

He said he was hesitant about reaching out to the school for help, but after being approached by his councilor about being apart of Y.E.S., he finally felt like he was being heard.

"It became easier, because I felt like someone actually understood what I was going through and actually understood me," he said.

Katie Price is a Bakersfield Highs councilor who works with the foster students in the Y.E.S. program. She said it's the bright light in many dark situations.

"These kids have so many negatives in their lives, a lot of them were homeless, some have been molested, some have moved homes 15 times," she described.

The Y.E.S. groups meet during lunch and offer the students professional development and resources, along with providing them a safe space.

"They have helped me build an overall system of what I need and what I want, and how to work with my environment," said Lopez.

The Y.E.S. program is offered at Bakersfield High, Independence, South, West, North, Liberty and the continuation schools.

Several outlying districts -- Tehachapi, Delano and Wasco -- are also looking to add these programs to their schools.

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