When Keisha* talks about her life, she glows with enviable confidence and poise. At age 20, she has a workable life plan—and an extraordinary supply of wisdom about her journey. “I’m a certified nursing assistant now, and I’m going back to school to become an EMT,” she says. “My goal is to become a paramedic,” She smiles, “Maybe I’ll even save your life someday!”
There’s every reason to believe Keisha can accomplish any goal she sets for herself. She has overcome rough teen years by learning to plan and hold herself accountable. “At 18, I was on my own, trying to survive, getting by however I could. I stayed in adults shelters for a while until I got into a youth shelter.”
“My lowest point came when I had to steal something to eat. It was no way to live, and I promised myself at my hardest moment that I’d focus on my future. I knew I needed stability to do that!” she says.
Keisha came to YouthLink for one service—free health care—but soon discovered that she could also get advice and support from a caring case manager. Gradually, with her goal of stability in mind, Keisha began to see the immense value that YouthLink and the Youth Opportunity Center could have for her.
Keisha was recommended by her case manager to take part in the inaugural S.T.A.R.T. program—Surviving to Thriving: A Real Transition. Keisha and her S.T.A.R.T. cohorts participated in confidence and team-building exercises thanks to a collaboration with Voyager Outward Bound School, as well as independent living skills classes.
Best of all, Keisha says, “S.T.A.R.T. gave me the boost that I needed to become more independent and responsible, to learn how to pay my bills and other life skills. Now, I’m on my own, paying my own rent, and I have a great place to call ‘home.’”
Keisha loves having her own apartment key, and has found the stability she always wanted. She offers this advice to young people who are on their own, experiencing homelessness: “Grab onto the resources at YouthLink! Don’t think you’ll get a handout—most of the work is on you—but you’ll have the help you need to succeed.”
*Name changed to protect privacy