Frequently Asked Questions
How do youth enroll in the YOTO program?
Because the YOTO program is deeply rooted in keeping kids in school, students are identified by their School Liaison (principals, teachers, counselors, etc. who volunteer their time to identify and work with homeless students). Together, the student and his/her School Liaison submit and complete an application.
What does the YOTO program provide?
Students are eligible to earn an accountability-based stipend during the nine-month school year through good grades and school attendance. This takes the edge off their poverty and averages about $6.50 a day, which students can use to buy food and other monthly necessities. Students also have access to other services which can range from emergency financial assistance to free medical care. The Mini-Mall provides other necessary staple items such as food, hygiene items, school supplies, clothing, bikes, and computers (when available).
Which schools offer the YOTO program?
YOTO currently partners with over 125 middle and high schools throughout Southern Arizona: from Marana, Oro Valley, Catalina Foothills, and Tanque Verde… to Vail, Sahuarita, Sells, and metro Tucson.
Where do YOTO students live?
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.
How do YOTO students find themselves homeless and on their own?
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 homeless through no fault of their own. To learn more about reasons for homelessness, visit our Reports 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.
What age students qualify for the YOTO program?
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.
Are alternative lifestyle youth eligible for YOTO program?
Yes; YOTO is gender, lifestyle, religiously and politically neutral.
How does a YOTO student maintain eligibility in the program?
YOTO students sign a contract agreeing to avoid gang affiliation, alcohol use, or illegal behavior. Throughout the school year, they must maintain passing grades, meet school attendance requirements, and exhibit appropriate behavior.
Can I tutor, mentor, or take a YOTO student shopping or out for dinner?
Individuals directly involved in working with YOTO students are required to have extensive background checks, finger printing, and insurance. The liability in this area is massive and not recommended.
Do you have volunteer opportunities?
A variety of volunteer opportunities exist at YOTO. Any skill, interest, or amount of time is extremely valued. For more information, please see the Volunteers page.
What do YOTO kids need most?
The biggest expenses for our program are the monthly stipends that students may earn based on good grades and school attendance. Having served nearly 1,600 youth throughout the 2015-2016 school year, we know that donations to support these monthly stipend are urgently needed to help homeless and at-risk youth 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 an average of 30 students visiting the Mini-Mall every day, keeping the shelves stocked is a must! Please see our In-Kind Donations page for suggested items.