July 28, 2022

The Game of Life: JBAY Helps Foster Youth Win Against All Odds

The Game of Life: JBAY Helps Foster Youth Win Against All Odds

Imani Gordon is a student at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill in Contra Costa County. He recently received $200 from the Burton Critical Needs and Opportunity Fund to help him obtain school supplies as a game design major. 

John Burton Advocates for Youth (JBAY) established the Critical Needs and Opportunity Fund to help young people like Imani. This year, the program will provide direct financial assistance to an estimated 1,000 young people who have been in foster care or experienced homelessness.

After entering foster care at birth, Imani lived with his grandmother in San Francisco until she became too elderly to take care of him, and then moved to Antioch to live with his current foster parents at the age of 15. As a foster youth, he quickly learned to become independent. During high school, he strived to work hard, proving to himself that he could overcome the odds and set himself up for success in adulthood. Looking back, though, he questions why he had put so much pressure on himself. 

“I think I grew up way too fast. I didn’t get to have a normal childhood like other kids did,” says Imani. At times, it was hard for him to avoid feeling resentful toward his upbringing. 

Fortunately, he had the help of a close mentor, who helped guide him through these challenges and introduced him to various paths that he could take following high school. 

After taking a year off, Imani started Diablo Valley College, but did not know what he wanted to study. Eventually, he secured a job that he liked at GameStop, which compelled him to pursue game design as a field. As he took classes and worked part-time, he did start feeling stressed about paying bills for his car, phone, and other belongings. Over time, through his job, he not only discovered a clear passion but learned the value of personal money management. 

At the start of every semester, Imani compiles a list of supplies that he would need for his classes. In the past, he has used financial aid or spent his own money to get supplies, including high quality drawing materials for his art studio class and a new camera for his photography class. 

The Critical Needs and Opportunity Fund will allow him to purchase specialized items like these that may not otherwise fit in his usual budget, and he will be better able to stay engaged and excel in the classes for his major. “This funding will really help me,” he says. “I’m glad that the cost of school supplies is one thing I won’t need to worry as much about anymore.”

Imani hopes to complete his Associate’s degree in 2023 and then transfer to UC Berkeley, where he can continue working towards his career goals in the gaming industry.