Beaufort’s Vireo Labs initiative lends support to foster youth

Jose Mallabo and Ian Leslie strategize in their office at BASEcamp. Vireo Labs is one of two residences at the Beaufort Digital Corridor. Photo Jessicah Lawrence/Beaufort Today

Jose Mallabo and Ian Leslie strategize in their office at BASEcamp. Vireo Labs is one of two residences at the Beaufort Digital Corridor. Photo Jessicah Lawrence/Beaufort Today

Beaufort-based Vireo Labs has big plans to help youth who are left with few resources when they age out of the foster care system.

After their launch of C’reer, a mobile applications that guides students through the college and career selection process, Vireo Labs co-founders Jose Mallabo and Ian Leslie want to expand their outreach to the 500,000 U.S. children in foster care.

C’reer is the only mobile app to match foster youth with careers and connect them with colleges and the tech company housed in the Beaufort Digital Corridor will provide two $1,000 scholarships to help youth in foster care research and finance their post-secondary education.

Vireo Labs has partnered with iFoster to award the C’reer iFoster Scholarships to college-bound students based on an essay submission that explains the career field suggested to them by the app. The application deadline is Sept. 30. Recipients will be notified by Oct. 27.

“iFoster has been helping foster families and youth access technology resources for education and training programs in job placement for many years with tremendous impact,” Mallabo said.

“We share a similar objective to provide students with resources to discover career paths and education choices that may otherwise have gone overlooked.”

Serita Cox, iFoster’s executive director, said more than 46 percent of foster youth report not getting enough assistance with college planning.

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“Achieving a college degree can be a significant challenge for many youth in foster care,” Cox said. “Having access to academic tools like C’reer, as well as the financial support of a scholarship, can make a tremendous difference in the lives of our youth.”

But Mallabo and Leslie want to do more than provide a scholarship. They have launched a fundraising campaign through Indiegogo.com called “C’reer: Helping foster youth find their way.”

The goal is to raise $30,000 to bring training programs, apprenticeships, career matches and higher education placement opportunities to foster youth students through C’reer.

The money, which the company says will stay local through the employment of Beaufort-based designers, will help Vireo:

• Create a separate C’reer login page and interface designed for youth and mentors in the foster system.

• Secure information and research on colleges, universities and vocational schools that have specific programs dedicated to foster youth.

• Integrate data about apprenticeships offered by thousands of companies around the country.

“It’s all about access. Since we started working on C’reer two years ago, it was always about focusing on underrepresented communities, so moving down this path to help foster youth was natural,” Mallabo said.

“In foster youth about 7 to 13 percent are accepted into colleges, but only 2-3 percent actually finish. It’s a glaring incongruity. They are no less apt to want to go to college, but they just don’t have the support system.”

creer1The new version of C’Reer would offer the same questionnaire and information about possible career paths and colleges based on a student’s interests. It also would provide information geared toward students who went through the foster care system.

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Mallabo said connecting foster youth to campuses that provide housing 365 days a year or life mentoring can provide extra support that other students may not need.

“There’s all this data out there, but you really have to know what you’re looking for when searching,” Mallabo said. “No one is matching the foster youth with these apprenticeships or campuses that provide all this help. So we say we’ll be your matchmaker.”

If the $30,000 goal is reached in the campaign’s 40-day period, Mallabo said, a new version of C’reer could be up by mid-fall. But the apprenticeship aspect may take longer, he said, as the Vireo team sifts through data from the U.S. Department of Labor and other agencies.

Supporters will receive various items based on the amount they donate. For more information, go to www.ideigogo.com and search “C’reer: Helping foster youth find their way.”

 

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