Earlier this year, Kevan Lyon began working with a young woman who needed help getting back on her feet.
The 19-year-old San Diego woman, who Lyon did not name, had been in the foster care system for several years and had a two-year-old daughter to support. She had trouble juggling her duties as a mother while also attempting to go to school and work, Lyon said.
"When we first met her, she was struggling," she said. "She's made great strides. She has a really solid job now, which we worked with her on her resume and on her interviewing skills, and she landed after a lot of hard work. She's working hard to sort out a multitude of automobile issues, but she's getting to work every day."
The young woman is one of many Lyon has worked with during her time as a volunteer for Just in Time, a San Diego-based nonprofit supporting current and former foster youth, ages 18 to 26, and Career Horizons, a branch of Just in Time that works with young women from the foster care system.
Lyon and fellow volunteer Kathy Roberts, both of Encinitas, will be honored for their work with Just in Time and Career Horizons on March 23 at the nonprofit's sixth annual Walk the Talk gala at the Hyatt Regency La Jolla.
The two women are among five local heroes who are being recognized for their work with foster youth. Other honorees include Just in Time co-founder Jeanette Day, Joanne Marks and Susanne Livingston.
Roberts, who donated to the organization five years ago before volunteering two years ago, said while she felt humbled for the recognition, she believed the foster youth should be the ones receiving the attention.
"For what they've gone through and how they're trying to change their stories, they're who should be recognized," said Roberts, who works in her husband's dental office as a marketer and accountant.
Lyon said programs like Just in Time are needed in every area to help foster youth. By the time the organization connects with them, she said, many of them are in their late teens and have been in more than a dozen homes and schools.
"The foster care system is a rough place to grow up," said the full-time literary agent. "They're transitioned out with no support. In general, they'll have no family support and few friends because they've moved around so much. They're really transitioning out with nothing, and they no longer have a place to live, in most cases. ... Just in Time is an organization that steps in at that point for foster youth and helps them identify resources that can help keep their lives on track."
Last year alone, Just in Time served more than 650 foster youth in the San Diego area, she added.
Career Horizons, where Lyon and Roberts both volunteer some of their time, offers networking opportunities and workshops for young women to help them develop themselves professionally. The program runs from January to November annually, with meetings twice a month, Lyon said. Some offerings include resume and wardrobe preparation for interviews.
The goal, she said, is to stop the cycle. Many former foster youth come from parents in similar situations, she noted.
The two women encourage more people to volunteer with Just in Time and its branch programs.
Roberts, a mother of two grown children, said she'd like to see more young people get involved to offer peer support.
"I think this would be a really powerful resource for the foster care youth to be able to relate to a person closer to their age and make connections that could help them," she said. "We're in our 50s, and I realize that we're helping these girls, but it would be great if some of my kids would come in at their age and show, 'Hey, you can do this.'"
She added working with the organization is not only rewarding for the foster youth but also for the volunteers.
"I think everyone wants to connect to a cause, so they're contributing to make the world a better place," she said. "You think you're going in it for them, and then you realize how much it helps you, too."
For more information and to purchase tickets to the gala, visit www.jitfosteryouth.org.