Ohana Project mentors youths aging out of foster care

Published: Jan. 23, 2021 at 7:43 PM EST
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TOLEDO, Ohio (WTVG) - Every year kids in foster care turn 18 and age out of the system. But that doesn’t always mean they’re ready to be adults. One local organization is helping young people reach their goals.

Anyone who’s seen the movie “Lilo and Stitch” knows that Ohana means family. In Toledo, the Ohana Project is trying to expand our definition of family.

“Polynesians believe that their family is not just their blood relatives, but the extension of their entire village,” says Mark Mills, project manager at the Ohana Project.

Mark and Ashley Mills run the Ohana Project, a non-profit that mentors young people after they age out of the foster care system.

“They don’t have closing hours… it’s 24/7 assistance. It doesn’t matter what it is, they try to help,” says Stephen Paxson.

Paxson gets help from the Ohana Project. The Mills teach him life skills and now he has a full-time job, housing, and he’s working towards his GED.

According to the National Foster Youth Institute, 20% of foster kids become instantly homeless upon aging out of the system. 70% of foster kids want to go to college, but 1 in 4 never even get their GED.

“The biggest goal of the Ohana Project is not that these kids are not just going to be in the program for a year or two, but that they are going to know that they’re going to have someone that they can depend on,” says Ohana Project CEO Ashley Mills.

“And sometimes that it takes a village to raise a child, but that no child is left behind,” says Mark.

The Ohana Project is currently mentoring three young people, with plans to expand. It is run on donations and sponsorships. For more information about Ohana Project, or to request help, visit their website.

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