Youth On Their Own (YOTO) is a dropout prevention program that supports the high school graduation and continued success of youth experiencing homelessness in Pima County.
The organization was founded in 1986 when Ann Young, a guidance counselor in the Amphitheater School District, noticed that talented and motivated students were dropping out of school due to homelessness and being forced to live on their own without a parent or guardian. Inspired by the students’ tenacity and willingness to stay in school, other school counselors, teachers, volunteers, and community members came together to form YOTO with the goal of helping students graduate.
After consulting with her fellow teachers, Young’s initial idea was to buy a home for a group of homeless teenage girls. She presented this proposal, along with the stories of the students she aimed to help, to a group gathered at St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church dedicated to assisting Tucson’s homeless community. People were appalled at the situations they were in, and jumped at the opportunity to lend them a hand. Soon, Young had an army of volunteers. She even managed to raise $80,000 in a single morning, thanks to the generosity of the congregation.