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BeREAL Archives • Upbring


BeREAL: Layla’s Story

From as early as age three, Layla remembers being on her own. She was raised by a single mother who was addicted to drugs. Layla spent most of her childhood looking after her mom, feeding and taking care of herself and tending to the household responsibilities.


As Layla grew older, circumstances got even tougher. At thirteen, her mother became violent, and Layla left home to seek help from her best friend’s parents who then became her foster parents. She spent the next several years in their care until she graduated from high school.


Like all high schoolers who walk the graduation stage, Layla thought about her future and what she needed to do to succeed in life. While she had the love and encouragement of her foster family, Layla needed extra support to attend college and move into her own apartment.


Hope came to Layla when she was accepted into Upbring’s BeREAL program. Through the generosity of friends of Upbring, the apartments participants live in come fully furnished! The BeREAL program also pays for Layla’s rent and utilities while she studies anthropology at Texas State University. After being in the program for more than a year, she continues to work hard to achieve her goal of graduating from college. “I know that I wouldn’t have been able to come to college and succeed at college without all the assistance that BeREAL and everyone involved has given me,” Layla said.


Layla hopes that her story encourages others who age out of foster care to believe that college is an option for them. Now, with big dreams and a bright future on the horizon, Layla knows she can lead a much different life than she had as a child


To learn more about BeREAL and how you can make a difference in the lives of young adults like Layla, visit


How to Decorate on a Shoestring Budget

Leaving home and moving into their first apartment or house is an exciting time in a young adult’s life, but it also presents challenges. For example, how do you make your new place feel like home when your finances are stretched thin between rent, car insurance, groceries and other obligations that come with growing up?


Fortunately, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to transform your new digs. Ready to get started? Our staff put their heads together and came up with 8 creative ways to decorate on a shoestring budget that we think you’ll love!


1.  Shop Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace.

It might take time to find what you want, as well as a little planning to pick it up, but both websites are great places to find low-cost items that need a new home.


2.  Paint an accent wall.

Painting makes a huge impact, but it can also be expensive. Instead of painting your entire home, choose just one wall and get a paint that includes primer so you can finish the job in one coat. If you are renting, talk to the owner or property manager before you paint.


3.  Add rolling casters to an inexpensive bookshelf to create a rolling storage system.

You could even create a small, mobile kitchen island by adding a cutting board to the top and storing your cooking utensils on the shelves below in canisters from the dollar section.


4.  Stock up on frames when your local craft store has a big sale.

Then, fill them with artwork from last year’s wall calendar, your favorite magazines or the thrift store to create a gallery wall.


5.  Hang decorative blankets on a wooden ladder, or stack wooden crates for a creative bookshelf.

Both the ladder and crates serve as decor and storage in one.


6.  Get even more for your money with multi-purpose pieces.

For example, find an ottoman that doubles as a coffee table and storage space.


7.  Mirrors are an easy way to add light to a space and make it feel larger.

They’re also practical. Consider hanging an inexpensive, full-length mirror horizontally behind your sofa for an instantly stylish look.


8.  Create an easy place to hang coats, hats and bags with decorative Command hooks.

They’ll keep everything neat, and you won’t have to worry about fixing holes in your walls later.


Our mission at work

Many young adults who age out of foster care have no home, no family and nowhere to turn. Sadly, 20 percent will become instantly homeless, and only 50 percent will be gainfully employed by the age of 24.

Continuum of Care


Through our continuum of care, we surround children and young adults with services that meet their needs in five key areas.


The Upbring BeREAL program walks alongside these young men and women as they take their first steps toward independence.


From identifying their education and career goals to moving into that first place of their own – and decorating it on a shoestring budget – we give young adults the guidance and encouragement they need to succeed.


“I came to BeREAL with nothing but a trash bag that had my clothes in it. Two vans pulled up to help me move into my apartment, and they were full of furniture. I told my BeREAL caseworker this wasn’t my stuff, and with a big smile on her face, she said, ‘Yes, it is.’ I didn’t even know these people, but they wanted to help me. That was such a powerful moment for me.”  – JoAnna, BeREAL participant


Want to help?

If you want to support a young person like JoAnna on their journey to adulthood, consider making a donation (Select BeREAL in the “Designate Your Gift” drop-down menu) or volunteering your time and talent.

The Mrs. – Inspiring Us All, One Song at a Time

“About to speak my mind. I won’t wait forever, and I won’t be last. Now I’m breaking through the ceiling made of glass. No need to ask. I’m enough, I’m enough, I’m enough, I’m enough.”- Enough by The Mrs.

When you think of the kind of champion you want in your corner as you work to break the cycle of child abuse – especially by empowering children and young women – I recommend The Mrs. They are four women using music to change the way other women see themselves: a top priority – as they inspire women to know that they are enough.

This message was performed for hundreds of Upbring’s friends who recently gathered at The Westin Austin at the Domain for the organization’s signature fundraising event, Upbring Red Ball. Since the Austin-based event supports Upbring Foster in Texas, New Life Children’s Center and BeREAL Austin, the band’s original songs served as a platform for more than just dancing the night away.

The Mrs. encouraged us to achieve our dreams in their hit Dare Me. The pop anthem Somewhere to Go reminded guests that they are never alone and they have someone to turn to when “the sky is fallin’ down.” These lyrics encouraged everyone in the room that night, so just imagine the impact on a girl living at New Life Children’s Center or in the Foster In Texas program! When I think about the positivity these artists are bringing into the world, I realize The Mrs. is made up of precisely the type of role models we hope to bring into the lives of those we serve.

Andra Liemandt founded The Mrs. after falling in love with drumming after her second daughter was born. More than just a band, The Mrs. has turned into a movement to help women see themselves in a positive light and ban negative self-talk. The band’s #IamEnough Campaign and “The Magic Mirror” recently gained national attention and sparked important conversations about the significance of self-acceptance and love.

Upbring was honored that The Mrs. chose to partner with us for Red Ball Austin.

Andra often partners with organizations in the community that are aligned with the band’s founding values. Most recently, Andra founded The Kindness Campaign on the belief that kindness is the key to changing the way children see themselves and how they relate to one another.

In an interview with Rockstar Magazine, the group offered these encouraging words to readers: “Never give up. Never let other people dictate your own story. You can absolutely achieve your dreams if you dare yourself.”

We want to thank The Mrs. for promoting their positive message and continuing to inspire us all.

About the Author

Jacie Minnick is a grant writer and member of the Upbring external relations team. Jacie recently relocated to Austin from Indiana, where she attended Hanover College (Go Panthers!). Off the clock, Jacie and her husband Jerry enjoy exploring all the things that make Austin unique, including dining at quirky restaurants, catching the latest highly acclaimed movie, and supporting the local Pug rescue mission.


A Heartfelt Message to Our Generous Friends

Kurt Senske has visited New Life Children’s Center hundreds of times during his 25 years as Upbring CEO. One day, a brave girl named Ava* approached him and asked who he was. When Kurt told Ava he leads the organization that operates New Life, she shared a story he will never forget.

Upbring Red Ball Platinum Partner Cut to Black created this 
short video
 explaining why they partner with us.

“She said that because of the therapy, life skills development opportunities and on-site education she got at New Life, she knew she would have a pretty good earthly life,” Kurt remembered.

“And because our spiritual care program taught her that her sins are forgiven, she also knew she would have an amazing eternal life.”

Ava’s story was just one of many beautiful stories of physical, emotional and spiritual healing told during Upbring Red Ball 2018. Because of the generous friends who supported our signature fundraising event, Upbring has the resources to provide care for more than 300 kids next year at New Life and in our Foster In Texas and BeREAL programs.

“We could not do what we do without you”

They are children like Jay and AJ, who didn’t always know where they would sleep or where their next meal would come from. The brothers were excited to come to Austin and go to a big party with their mom, Cheryl Lamaak, who partnered with Upbring to adopt them. Mostly, Cheryl said, the boys were excited to dance!

But before the music started, Cheryl delivered a heartfelt message to Red Ball guests.

“Your support helped me take the boys shopping for clothes when they came to live with me. They were so excited to pick out their own shoes for the first time,” Cheryl said. “I was also able to sign them up for karate, which has helped build their self-confidence. Those might seem like small things, but they make a tremendous impact in the lives of families who welcome children into their homes. We could not do what we do without you.”

Live art and live music

Russian-born Mila Sketch, described by her teachers as a child prodigy, earned her first art award at nine years old.

Red Ball guests had the chance to bid on trips, gift baskets and other items during live and silent auctions. The items were donated by generous congregations, businesses, families and individuals such as Austin artist Mila Sketch.

Mila was on-site creating a painting that she donated to New Life Children’s Center.

The evening closed with music by The Mrs. The Austin-based pock-rock group’s songs are powered by driving drum and bass lines.

But the heartbeat of each number lies in uplifting lyrics that promote a positive self-image among women.

In future blog posts, we will feature Mila Sketch and The Mrs. In the meantime, we thank you for showing Central Texas children we see them, we value them and we celebrate them.

We encourage you to visit our Flickr page and relive the fun from Upbring Red Ball 2018!

*Ava’s story is true, but we used a pseudonym to protect her identity.


9 Lessons I Learned About Results Based Leadership While at Upbring

More than 23,000 children will age out of the US foster care system every year. Many have no family, no home and nowhere to turn in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds:

  • After reaching the age of 18, 20% of the children who were in foster care will become instantly homeless.
  • Only 1 out of every 2 foster kids who age out of the system will have some form of gainful employment by the age of 24.
  • There is less than a 3% chance for children who have aged out of foster care to earn a college degree at any point in their life.

Statistics courtesy of the National Foster Youth Institute.

Read More


For These Golfers, Changing Lives is Par for the Course

The nearly 300 golfers who recently teed off during the annual Upbring Golf Austin and Houston tournaments were playing for more than birdies, pars and hole-in-ones. For these athletes, a few hours on the course offered a powerful way to change a child’s life.

The events raised a combined $113,000 for Upbring Foster In Texas (FIT), BeREAL, Krause Children’s Center and New Life Children’s Center.

“I was walking through the dormitories the other day, Read More


What’s the Best Gift You Can Give a Young Person?

When you think back to your childhood, were there adults who helped you become the person you are today? Maybe it was a coach, a pastor or a family friend who invested in you by listening and encouraging you.

Simply by showing up, Upbring mentors help children and young adults write a new story, one where someone believes in them, laughs with them and chooses them.

“One of the best gifts you can give a young person is your time,” said Trevon, an Upbring BeREAL participant.

Become A Mentor

“When you’re in foster care, people constantly come and go from your life. BeREAL connected me with adults who are always there for me. I want to give back to the program as a mentor someday.”

Mentoring matters

Research shows that the support of adults makes a life-changing impact young people’s lives. According to MENTOR: National Mentoring Partnership, at-risk young adults who have mentors are:

  • 55% more likely to enroll in college
  • 78% more likely to volunteer regularly
  • 90% are interested in becoming a mentor
  • 130% more likely to hold leadership positions

Mentors can be especially important when it comes to education, one of Upbring’s five markers of every child’s well-being.

The Christian Science Monitor notes that if students feel supported by adults in school, it can reduce the likelihood of them dropping out by 25 percent.

Furthermore, youth with mentors have fewer unexcused absences from class than students without mentors, according to a study cited by

How can you help? (Hint: Become A Mentor)

Even with the growth of mentoring groups during the past two decades, an estimated 9 million at-risk U.S. children will turn 19 without that connection, reports MENTOR.

Mentors are an essential part of the work we do to end the cycle of child abuse. Your willingness to share your hobbies, talents, encouragement and time with our Texas children makes a tremendous impact on their lives.

If you are interested in mentoring and other volunteer opportunities, visit our Volunteer page or contact Amanda Angell, volunteer and stewardship coordinator, at [email protected] or 512-706-7856.