There Are People Who Care
Over the past four decades, YouthLink has connected thousands of young people to the services they need to transform their lives. Many of these young people leave YouthLink empowered and ready to continue on their journeys of self reliance. We reconnected with some of our alumni to talk about their experiences with YouthLink—and where they are now.
After a family tragedy, Ebonii’s once-stable support unit started to crumble. There was a lot of tension in the home. “Nobody had grieved. No one was communicating. I kind of fell into a dark place that had me out all night. Hanging with people I shouldn’t have been. I was a very lost child. My mother was still trying to be a parent, but I was a very lost child.”
Eventually, the friction became too much and Ebonii and her mother decided it would be best if she moved out. “I got home and my mom had circled YouthLink in the YellowPages and left it on my bed.”
Ebonii was just 15 when she first walked into the YouthLink—actually called “Offstreets” at the time—drop-in center. “It was a complete culture shock. I just felt like I had no skin. I felt so exposed,” she remembers. “I wasn’t raised in the system. I was raised in a household with a single parent, but I was very sheltered. I had never seen so many teens in one area who looked like they needed a mother or a father.”
Despite feeling out of place, she started to settle in. “It looked like a home when you walked through the door. I was very much an introvert, but I could get my needs met. Carl was cooking all the time. It felt like a homey place.
“They were really engaging in helping us succeed. Making sure the youth weren’t just coming there to waste their lives away. We had outings. They would take us to plays and to the art museum. I always liked how engaged they were with us.”
Even when the staff pushed Ebonii outside her comfort zone, she respected where they were coming from: “One of the staff members used to ride me about getting my GED. I wasn’t ready. I used to blow her off for a while. But she pushed me and I ended up getting it. It turned out for the better.
“She and a few others got through because they approached me in a respectful manner. They spoke to me like a human being. It’s hard with angry teenagers who are already rebellious. You’ve got to get a feel for the individual. You can’t approach them all the same way.”
Ebonii explains how this approach worked for her: “There were times when my behavior got me suspended from YouthLink, but I needed them. I would still show up because I was hungry or I needed clothes. My case manager knew if I was showing up when I wasn’t supposed to be there, I must really need something. I appreciated her for that, because I was definitely a tough cookie to handle.”
Through this experience, Ebonii developed patience and understanding for others in similar situations. “It’s why I want to get into criminal justice. If it wasn’t for YouthLink, I wouldn’t be enrolled at MCTC. I plan to be a parole officer. I am determined to finish my education. I want to be that success story for YouthLink.”
Many would argue Ebonii has already become that success story.
In the years since she’s left YouthLink, Ebonii has kept an apartment and a steady job in addition to going to school and volunteering to help children and senior citizens. Going below the surface, Ebonii notes her personality has changed for the better as well: “I’m more compassionate than I was when I first walked through that door. The only person I cared about was myself. Now I know you can’t take anything for granted.
“I’ve learned to put my pride in my pocket and accept help. I used to shut down because I thought ‘You don’t know me, how can you help?’ YouthLink showed me there are people who care and know how to help even if they don’t know you.”
Although we can’t introduce you to every young person who comes through our doors, we truly appreciate how much you care. Your donations and volunteer support have made the past 40 years possible—and are the fuel we need to keep going into the future. To help us continue this life changing work, you can donate at: https://donate.youthlinkmn.org/YouthLinkMN