My name is Alisa. No one would ever believe my story, so I stay silent. I go about my day at school like life is good and I am one of the “in-crowd”. The reality is that both of my parents are drunks. My dad left about two years ago. He wasn’t much good at anything except drinking and vomiting. I remember one time he was so drunk he threw up all over my doll when I was a kid. Although he was great at getting jobs, he couldn’t keep one for more than a few months. He fooled himself into believing it wasn’t his fault – apparently every boss he had knew less than he did and of course, my dad wasn’t much for hard work. After my dad left, my mom no longer had a drinking buddy, so she went out to find one.

She was rarely there when I got home in the afternoons or when I left in the morning for school. We lived in an apartment not far from school – one of the largest high schools in this area with a fairly affluent school population. One day when I got home, I found plastic bags of stuff piled up by the door. When I opened them I was devastated because I discovered they contained what little I called my own – clothes, toothbrush, books, some photos, various hygiene supplies and misc. other stuff I had. The apartment was empty. Nothing was left! I ran to the office and they told me that some guy came by and picked up the woman that lived there. She had stopped by the office to pick up her security deposit and left with him. That was it. I was alone!

I borrowed the office phone and called my friend, Ann. She said she and her mom would come by to pick me up. Between tears and sobs, I told them my story. Ann’s mom said I could stay with them until things got figured out. I was the Junior Class President and homecoming queen and the National Honor Society president. How could this happen to me? I couldn’t really tell anyone. They wouldn’t believe me. I had done such a good job of pretending all this time – all I had was one more year and I was working so hard to earn a scholarship. My ticket to a better life was my high school diploma and now my life was falling apart. Ann’s mother advised me to tell my high school guidance counselor – she said it was the right thing to do. So I did.

My guidance counselor told me about Youth On Their Own –I had never heard of this group. I was scared and didn’t want anyone at school to know, but I applied and was accepted. The first day I met with my Student Advocate, all I could say was “please help me” – I want to finish high school so I have a chance. I don’t want to wind up like my parents! The Student Advocate told me about the YOTO program and all the different people that helped YOTO to help kids like me.

I graduated this year as the Valedictorian of my class from a high school you’d know with over 2000 students! No, my parents weren’t sitting there cheering me on – I cheered myself on (and so did Ann, her family and of course my YOTO family!) I could not have made it my last year without YOTO and all the people that support it. I had no one – except a lot of strangers that through their kindness thought enough to help some kids they didn’t even know – ME being one of them! By the way, I did earn my scholarship – a 4 year complete scholarship with dorm support and everything to Penn State! I am going to graduate from Penn State and when I do, my life will be devoted to helping others. I feel so much gratitude that this is the only way that I can ever repay this kindness. Thanks YOTO and thank YOU – all you mystery people that made my future possible.