In one year, a lot can happen.
Karen* fled across the country with her mother and younger siblings to escape a highly unsafe domestic violence situation. Once in their new state, her family moved into a homeless shelter. Shortly thereafter, a younger sibling was diagnosed with and treated for cancer. Then she and her family became homeless.
Karen worked very hard to keep it together. She helped to care for her siblings while her mother was at the hospital. She attended school whenever she could obtain transportation and maintained very good grades. But the intense strain the young 15 year old was under took its toll.
“I kept a lot of things bottled up inside and it soon got out of hand,” she said.
Karen was able to get help, however, through a YAP program where she met Community Living Specialist (CLS) Crystal Williams. Karen received counseling from Crystal, was connected with vital community resources that helped with concrete needs such as housing and food, and was encouraged to engage in activities that both revealed her potential and provided positive outlets for her stress.
"I have a CLS that I can talk to whenever I need her,” she shared. "I also have experienced things I have only dreamed of, such as horseback riding, Yoga and Zumba as well as upcoming Martial Arts class."
Crystal also helped remove the barriers that kept Karen from attending school regularly and was inspired and motivated by Karen's attitude. “Most students would have given up at that point, but she kept pushing,” said Crystal about Karen's commitment to her education. “It would have been easy to say ‘I can’t make it to school today’ but she kept pushing.”
Karen's own resilience and determination, coupled with support and opportunity, have led to a huge achievement: Karen graduated from high school in June.
Karen is both proud and thankful. “[Crystal] took the time to get to know me,” shared Karen. “She encourages me to keep pushing when I am almost close to giving up. Most importantly she truly believes in me, so much so that she forced me to believe in myself. I figured she was either crazy or she was really on to something and I can do great things.”
Karen is indeed on her way to do great things: she was accepted at college and will be majoring in Marketing this fall.
She is also the recent recipient of a scholarship from YAP's Tom Jeffers Fund for Continuing Education to help her pay for her studies. Eventually, she hopes to work for Google and travel the world.
"I will be the first in my family to attend college as I am the oldest of eight children. I am aware that my seven siblings are looking to me to pave the way and set the standard. I don’t know where I would be without YAP.”
Karen also is quick to give credit to another important source of support and inspiration, her mother. “My mom motivated me to be the best I can be.”
*Karen is not the young person's real name to protect her confidentiality