TAMPA, Fla. — Each year, more than 20,000 teens age out of foster care. Kids who were being taken care of "by the system" are now on their own to figure out how to take care of themselves. Less than 5 percent actually "make it." Most end up in the juvenile justice system.
One woman knows all too well what that's like and hopes to give some of these teens a chance at a better life.
In the next couple of months, a new sailboat will make its way into Tampa Bay - a boat that will take the passengers on the trip of a lifetime to learn the lessons of life.
"They're going to be part of the crew, they're going to be cooking for each other, they're going to be learning all the aspects of sailing and the maintenance. And, they're going to be the watchmen so it's going to be a lot of hands-on," Liz Sutherland said. At a younger age, she would have loved an opportunity like this.
"My journey began when I was 13 in foster care. I was in and out of 10 to 12 different foster homes, group homes, multiple schools, and at the age of 18 I aged out," she said.
But Sutherland figured it out, all on her own.
"I was determined that you only get one shot at life and I wanted to make the best of it."
Liz wrote a book about her experience and how she overcame so many difficulties. One day she was on a zoom call talking about her life when someone from the non-profit organization Wisdom Collective overheard her.
"They wanted to assist underprivileged youth and when they heard about aged out foster youth, they never knew what it was," Sutherland said. "When I was able to connect with them and share with them what it was, they were like yep, this is what we want to do."
Liz went on a trip recently to see the boat and find out what the kids will be learning. She believes this will change lives.
"I think it's just going to be a wonderful, overall amazing opportunity for these kids."
If the first trip goes well they will be looking to do this three to four times a year, taking six to eight young adults at a time.