LUBBOCK, Texas – Reclaimed 43 is a local non profit that strives to help youth ages 18 to 21 that have aged out of the foster care system, providing them with the support they need to get their life started. 

The dream for the organization came from Erica Bright’s own experience in the system. 

“I felt so alone in my own family, in my own home,” said Bright, Director of Reclaimed 43. “When I was around four or five, just about a year or so later after my mom passed away, my dad started to abuse me. He kind of groomed into keeping it a secret so I did not tell anyone about it until I was 11 years old.”

Bright was turned away from people she had considered family, “My siblings, my stepmom, my grandma that I went to live with, they all rejected me, and treated me as an outcast. My grandma would tell people ‘don’t look at her.’ If I sat down at the kitchen table, ‘don’t speak to her.’

Despite the neglect and abuse, Bright found comfort at school and at church, “I had people that they made the choice to be consistent for me when my life was just so up and down and all over the place, they really gave me my hope and my strength and gave me the time to breathe and grow, when I should have been really suffering at that time.”

Bright decided to create that consistency for others, after seeing friends and other kids age out of the same system. 

“For them It’s, ‘when I’m 18, I’m moving out.’ and so we see a lot of youth still in high school trying to get to high school and if they don’t have a car, which most of them don’t, how are they going to do that? Decisions like that, that they’re looking at all in one day, it all changes.”

Bright says these youth typically end up getting lost in different demographics such as homelessness or become teen parents. According to the Texas Tribune, more than 1,200 youth in Texas age out of the system every year.  

Through Reclaimed 43, Bright helps these youth pay their bills, start their careers, and learn valuable life tools such as financial planning. 

Elexis Ponce is one of the youth that Reclaimed 43 has helped, “I’ve been in the system since I was eight years old. As I’ve gotten older, I realized how hard it is not to have parents.”

Ponce was adopted two weeks before she turned 18 by her grandparents. Although it may be ideal to get adopted, in Ponce’s situation it did more harm than good.

“She doesn’t receive a lot of the same services that all of our other youth receive, but she technically aged out so she’s just had a hard time getting on her feet,”said Bright. 

“I kind of felt like it’s who you get adopted by. My grandparents adopted me and they’re really old, they’re retired, they can’t help me with a lot of things because they’re retired, they don’t really have an income to help me and they can’t drive anymore,” said Ponce.

Because of this, Ponce has had to find ways to support herself and her future because she aged out of the system without any help from the state. 

That’s when reclaimed 43 stepped in to help Ponce build the foundation she needed, 

“Reclaimed 43 has helped me a lot. About two years ago they donated a car to me. So that was kind of like my first car and It did a lot of things for me. I was able to start school, graduate and get my cosmetology license,” said Ponce.

Ponce now has her own nail business, creating intricate designs that she says is her passion. 

“We are just doing our best to create a community for these kids and solidify the belief that they are valuable people and they’re known and they belong here and their childhood shouldn’t dictate what their future looks like,” said Bright.

To support Ponce and other youth like her you can visit their website Reclaimed 43 click here

To support Ponce’s business you can find her Instagram here