The Erie County Independent Living Program (ILP) is a partnership between the Erie County Office of Children and Youth (OCY), Family Services of NW PA, and Bethesda Services that helps youth ages 14 to 23 years old who are in out-of-home placement make the transition to become independent, self-sufficient, and productive adults.

North Star Mentoring

North Star Mentoring provides an additional support person to the youth enrolled in ILP. "I love my mentor, Kim," says mentee Makenna. "She pushes me to reach all my goals, graduate on time, go to college, and be the best mom I can."

Kellie Tate is the Mentoring Specialist with North Star Mentoring. "Our mentees come into the program and get their case manager, and also have the opportunity to get a mentor," said Kellie. "If they have a mentor, it is because they want a mentor."

Makenna credits Kim and North Star Mentoring with putting her on the right path and getting her head straight. "I look up to Kim because she is such a great role model," said Makenna. "She is respectful and caring."

The mentors also recognize how North Star Mentoring positively impacts their lives. "They come back to me and they say it fills their cup so much more than they ever imagined it would," said Kellie.

Snack Shack Food Truck

The Snack Shack Food Truck is a work training program for the young adults enrolled in ILP. Skip Kenawell manages the Snack Shack and sees the positive impact the experience has on the workers. "I had an employee this morning do everything necessary to manage the truck and get it all out the door completely on his own," said Skip. "That shows great growth in just a few months on his part."

Michael is one of the original Snack Shack employees. "When I first started here, I was so nervous to talk to people I didn't know," said Michael. "Since I've been here for three plus years, it's gotten a lot better."

The Snack Shack offers a unique experience for youth and young adults looking for real world job experience. "These are opportunities I can give these kids that most other businesses aren't going to give them," said Skip. "It allows me to be more patient with the kids and help them to grow into good competent employees on a day-to-day basis."

Youth Media Development

Youth Media Development (YMD) offers hands-on work experience that provides soft skill development. Through a partnership with Community Access Media, the young adults in YMD learn how to use the equipment to produce a variety of media content. "Community Access Media teaches the original lessons and then we come through with a project that utilizes the skills that were just taught," said Katie Phillips, Career Specialist.

Jevon has been involved with the Independent Living Program for almost four years. "Coming here is pretty awesome," said Jevon. "Getting the chance to work in an open space is really, really incredible."

YMD aims to give the youth and young adults real-life transferable skills they can use once they leave the program. "Youth do get skills that they are able to take away to either start their own business or work in a studio," said Katie. "It definitely gives them skills that unlock a lot of potential, especially in the Erie area."