I’d like to share my story of going from one extreme to another. I’ll begin with the year 2012, the time when I hit rock bottom and had had enough. Looking back, basically all my life was a struggle. At the time I remember thinking that all of my challenges were normal because that was all I ever knew. Most of these were due to my mother’s drug and alcohol addiction. During this time I was focused on surviving and not much else.

Although my dreams and goals had always been to become successful, many things were getting in the way of that. Most days, even attending school wasn’t realistic. I was spending much of my time working so I could get my basic needs in life. When I wasn’t doing that I was babysitting my mother, making sure she wouldn’t overdose, or talking her out of committing suicide.

After nearly 17 years I decided only she could change herself. I finally realized I needed to do what was best for Emma and no one else. I began making plans to leave everything behind and start a new life in Tucson, Arizona. I can honestly say this was the hardest decision I had ever had to make and I couldn’t have done it without my grandma. She helped me relocate to Arizona, but once I arrived it became all me again.

Shortly after enrolling in school, I learned about Youth On Their Own. YOTO helped me by making some simple things in life much easier. For example, I was able to earn up to $125 a month for good attendance and passing grades. This money would go to my basic needs allowing me to focus on getting caught up in school so I could graduate on time. Youth On Their Own also helped me receive a full ride scholarship to Tucson College of Beauty.

Before receiving the scholarship, financial assistance to continue my education had never even crossed my mind; I believed that wasn’t in the cards for me. It’s amazing where your life can go after removing yourself from a negative environment. From there the possibilities are endless and I’m proud to say I’m living proof!

It’s now 2014 – I graduated on time from high school and will graduate from cosmetology school on June 24th, debt free! I finally got my driver’s license and am on the road to success. I even have plans to take over my grandma’s hair salon so she is able to retire. I intend to make something really great for myself! With the right positive influences and hard work anyone can turn their life around! I don’t know if all this would have been possible without all the support and guidance that YOTO provided!

Thank you all for allowing me to share my story. Hopefully I can inspire other struggling teens.