Youth On Their Own Alumna Shares How Local Nonprofit Helped Her on the Path to Success
Tucson, AZ – When Karla was in high school, she returned home one day to discover that all of her belongings had been placed outside, packed in garbage bags and sitting beside the front door. She was fearful for not only her own wellbeing, but the safety of her unborn child. “I was so afraid,” she said. “I didn’t know what I was going to do.”
Fast forward to today, and you would never know that Karla Avalos was once one of 5,600+ homeless teens in Pima County struggling to survive. Today, Karla serves as the Community Organization & Development Director for the Mayor’s Office here in Tucson. She deals with many types of human services programs and initiatives, including Tucson-Mexico trade and diplomatic relations. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Public Administration at the University of Arizona, and also serves as a board member for another local nonprofit that serves homeless populations: Old
Pueblo Community Services.
Looking back on her experience with YOTO, Karla is incredibly grateful for the assistance. “The support I received from YOTO was very important for me. I was a teen mother, and the support YOTO provided me was critical… it kept me going to class and getting good grades.”
More than anything, Karla wants other homeless teens who are in the same position she was once to understand that they shouldn’t give up. “Keep educating your mind,” Karla advised. “Education can never be taken away from you, and it is respected. Work hard, but never expect anything to be given to you. Your hard-working reputation should precede you. Overcoming homelessness and choosing to make something of your life is one of the best decisions you will ever make… homelessness does not define you, but your choice to overcome will.”
Kristyn Conner, YOTO Director of Development
In its 31st year of service, Youth On Their Own (YOTO)’s mission is focused: to support the high school graduation and continued success of homeless youth by providing financial assistance, basic human needs, and guidance. Since 1986, over 16,000 homeless students have been empowered to stay in school and pursue opportunities for self-sufficiency.