Youth On Their Own (YOTO), a local 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is a drop out prevention program that supports the high school graduation of homeless unaccompanied youth in the Greater Tucson region who are in 6th – 12th grade (up to age 21). Students are enrolled in public schools—including charter and alternative schools—and are motivated to obtain their high school diplomas despite personal and financial hardship.
YOTO youth, through no fault of their own, lack a parent or long-term legal guardian physically involved in their lives and a stable, permanent nighttime residence. The absence of caring, adult support and a consistent home environment is not conducive to successful academic performance, placing this population at great risk of dropping out of high school. Statistics show that, without a high school diploma, they are likely to continue the cycle of poverty and reliance on social services, and are at increased risk for substance abuse, incarceration and mental health problems throughout adulthood.
YOTO provides students with financial assistance, basic needs and guidance as they work to obtain their high school diplomas. With community contributions and support, YOTO has helped over 15,000 students stay in school and remain focused on the goal of graduation, paving the way to become self-sufficient, productive adults within their communities.
Mission, Vision & Values
Youth On Their Own (YOTO), a 501(c)(3) local non-profit agency, is dedicated to support the high school graduation and continued success of homeless youth by providing financial assistance, basic human needs and guidance.
To empower young people on their own to become positive and productive citizens of our community.
- Education – A high school diploma is crucial to achieving future success.
- Empowerment – Youth are given tools for success, direction for their future and guidance, while being held accountable.
- Integrity – Prudent fiscal management ensures that all resources directly further our mission, benefiting more students.
- Respect & Compassion – All individuals assisted are treated with dignity and encouraged to reach their full potential and goals.
- Responsiveness – Each student’s needs are approached with a consistent sense of urgency and appropriate action for their specific situation.
In 1986, Ann Young, Amphitheater High School counselor, knew of at least ten young people at Amphitheater who were living from couch-to-couch and friend-to-friend. No agency in Tucson was available to help them. “Their teachers and I were quite concerned about these young people and the danger of their having to drop out of school before they could graduate. They were struggling.”
After numerous brainstorming sessions, Mrs. Young sought help from her church, local foundations and many concerned citizens in Pima County. The result was the establishment of an innovative community-based drop out prevention program for homeless high school and middle school youth. Beginning with ten students, the program developed into a countywide project and grew to support 300 by 1994. Thus, a long-term prevention program with broad community support was formed to meet a critical need in Tucson and Pima County.
Today, Youth On Their Own serves approximately 1,300 homeless unaccompanied youth each academic school year by providing financial assistance, basic needs and guidance. The Student Living Expense Program, initiated in 1988 as the Monthly Stipend Program, remains the agency’s hallmark direct student core service, with Emergency Needs Funds available through request for emergency financial situations. YOTO student clients attend schools throughout the Metro Tucson area and are motivated and committed to receiving a high school diploma.
- Founded at Amphitheater High School (1986)
- Awarded Angel Charity grant; St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church pledge (by 1990)
- Achieved 501(c)(3) status (1990)
- Formation of the first Board of Directors (1990)
- National recognition received from the Interagency Council on the Homeless (1993) and National Association of State Coordinators for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth (1998)
- First paid Executive Director hired (1994)
- Top of the Town event organized as first signature fundraising event (1994)
- Purchased facility on Prince Road (2002)
- Received The Meyer and Libby Marmis Humanitarian Award from the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona (2007)
- Board of Directors completed an extensive, year-long strategic planning process to create The Strategic Plan, which serves as a guide to meet increasing student needs (2007)
- Established Youth On Their Own Endowment managed by the Community Foundation for Southern Arizona (2008)
- Created partnership with Touch Point Connection to pilot a coach program at Amphitheater High School (2008)
- Honored as Outstanding Nonprofit Organization of the Year – Small Category at the statewide, inaugural Non-Profit and Corporate Responsibility Awards presented by Arizona Business Magazine in partnership with the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits (2008)
- Sold 1443 W. Prince Road facility (2012)
- Awarded 3 year Social Venture Partners of Greater Tucson grant, providing funding, strengthening capacity, infrastructure, board development and updating strategic plan. (2011-2014)
- Purchased new home at 1660 N. Alvernon Way, which provides students improved service through its central location, double square footage and desperately needed academic focused “Student Success Drop-In Center”. Homeless students have a safe place to receive assistance with homework, life management, financial aid, scholarship, college and job application. (2013)
- Accredited as an A+ Charity through the BBB and has earned the GuideStar Exchange Gold Participant seal, demonstrating our commitment to transparency. (2014)