A local hero!
By Judy Marie Willis
When Betsy Annese first heard about Youth in Transition (YIT) in 2011, she was profoundly moved. Her firm, Annese Public Relations, Inc., had managed communications for some of the nation’s most distinguished brands. If she could deftly craft words that built a buzz for those corporate entities, surely she could do the same for young people aging out of Forsyth County’s foster-care system.
“I wasn’t aware of the tremendous obstacles those young people face,” says Annese, who now directs the program’s communication efforts.
Youth in Transition is a comprehensive community-based plan designed to connect young people with the necessary support and services they need to successfully transition out of foster care into independent adulthood. Fifty young people, most between the ages of 18–24, currently participate in the program, eight of whom serve on the Youth Leadership Board (LYFE).
The Duke Foundation and Kate B. Reynolds Charitable Trust supply funding with programming support provided by the Jim Casey Youth Opportunities Initiative. Goodwill Industries serves as the program’s lead agency.
Annese believes that Winston-Salem has sufficient resources to solve this issue and help these young people establish necessary life skills and a sound foundation. Yet, she also concedes that the youth themselves will be the most important agents of change in their lives.
“When young people leave foster care, they find many doors closed,” she says. “Our job as a community is to open those doors and help them make good decisions that will improve their lives going forward.”
Annese’s church home, Ardmore Moravian, is also actively involved as a community partner, most recently providing a cottage for one of the program’s participants. Additional community partners include Forsyth County Department of Social Services, the Winston-Salem Foundation, and the Children’s Home.
The compassion and humanity she willingly brings to the collaboration is much appreciated.
“Betsy Annese is a tremendous blessing to the work of Youth in Transition,” says Alex Hudson, YIT’s lead coordinator. “She has given faithfully of her time, talents, and treasures and has opened up doors through her professional connections. Community partners like Betsy make YIT possible.”