Because the YOTO program is deeply rooted in keeping youth in school, students are often identified by their School Liaison (principals, teachers, counselors, etc. who volunteer their time to identify and work with students). Youth can also submit an online application on their own.
Students are eligible to earn an accountability-based stipend during the nine-month school year through good school attendance. This takes the edge off their poverty and allows them to pay for their needs. The Mini Mall provides other necessary staple items such as food, hygiene items, school supplies, bikes, and laptops.
Each student’s situation is unique and may depend on their age and circumstances. For example, some of our students are in foster care or group homes, and others are “couch-hopping” (staying at a different house or apartment every few days). To continually meet the housing needs of our program participants, YOTO partners with other local nonprofits whose primary mission is to provide safe housing options to youth in this community.
The reasons vary – from DCS removal to physical abuse to parental death or deportation – but the one thing that all students have in common is that they have found themselves experiencing homelessness through no choice of their own. To learn more about reasons for homelessness, visit our About Us page and view our community reports with data from the past 6 years. You may also check out some of the Student Stories that our program participants allow us to share.
Youth enrolled in grades 6-12 are eligible for the YOTO program. However, the age cap to earn necessary credits for a diploma in the state of Arizona is 21 years old. Students older than 21 are referred to partners that provide GED support and services.
Youth that graduate while in the YOTO program are eligible to enroll in the Alumni Program and may continue to receive some services up to age 24.
YOTO students must continue to go to school and meet school attendance requirements. Additionally, YOTO youth must continue to meet eligibility criteria: experiencing homelessness, on their own through no choice of their own, attend school or be a YOTO graduate, and be unaccompanied.
The biggest expenses for our program are the monthly stipends that students may earn based on school attendance. Having served nearly 1500 youth throughout the 2022-2023 school year, we know that donations to support these monthly stipends are urgently needed to help youth experiencing homelessness stay in school!
Additionally, our on-site Mini Mall offers free basic needs items to all enrolled students. From new bottles of shampoo to macaroni & cheese, the Mini Mall is always in need of food and hygiene supplies for these hardworking young adults. With nearly 170,000 items going out to youth last year alone, keeping the shelves stocked is a must! We are always in need of non-perishable food items, full-sized hygiene items, school supplies, and household goods.