Growing up, Alex and his brother witnessed more than their fair share domestic violence. Their dad was an alcoholic, and their mother couldn’t control her temper or hold down a job. During the worst of times, Alex resorted to selling drugs in order to make ends meet for their family. Watching his older brother graduate from high school made him realize that he needed to clean up his act.

When his parents eventually split, Alex was kicked to the curb: his parents chose their new families and step-children over Alex, who only felt like a burden. He spent months going back and forth between living in the park and couch-hopping. For a short period of time he stayed with his aunt and uncle – but after they began charging him an astronomical amount for rent, he often had to make the choice between paying for food or paying for shelter. It seemed like he had nowhere to turn.

Today, Alex lives with a classmate and her mother who provide him with the first safe and judgment-free place he has ever lived. He is able to finally concentrate on his studies and being the best student he can be. When he signed up for YOTO, he earned his first stipend check and used the money to buy himself clothing for the first time in over 2 years. According to Alex, YOTO pushes him to keep his grades up and aim for getting his diploma. “My Program Coordinator regularly checks on how I’m doing, ensures I have food, and provides care and guidance.”

Alex is currently a junior in high school and is on track to graduate in May 2018. After graduation, he wants to go to Pima Community College to study sports medicine so he can someday become an athletic trainer.