Youth On Their Own Alumnus Shares How Local Nonprofit Helped Him on the Path to Success
Tucson, AZ – When he was in 7th grade, Dustin Peace’s family was going through a rough time. After it became apparent that the children were left to fend for themselves, Dustin’s older brother joined the Youth On Their Own program. Shortly thereafter, Dustin followed suit when he joined during his freshman year at Flowing Wells High School
Fast forward to today, and you would never know that Dustin was once one of 5,600+ homeless teens in Pima County struggling to survive. Today, Dustin is in his 12th year of teaching and 9th year as head football coach at Canyon del Oro (CDO) High School. He is currently completing his Master’s degree in Educational Leadership with Grand Canyon University and will graduating in the summer of 2017.
Looking back on his experience with YOTO, Dustin is the most grateful for the support he received from his School Liaison. “[My guidance counselor] really helped prepare me for college, with all the paperwork that is involved… without the support of the program and [my School Liaison], I would have never known attending college would be possible.”
Dustin enjoys his job at CDO High School because it allows him to work with young people, empowering them to be their best. “I knew I wanted to do that for young [people], and I knew I wanted to empower them and give them the tools that I learned myself.”
Dustin also appreciates his interactions with current YOTO students and encourages them to always see the positive. “Sometimes, students are nervous to turn in their YOTO grade reports teachers because they do not want anyone to know they might be homeless. The reality is that it is not their fault and it is nothing to be ashamed about. The positive side is that YOTO is looking out for these students in need. Embrace the support… we all are great at something; we just to challenge ourselves to find out what it is.”
When he’s not teaching or coaching, Dustin is focused on spending time with his family. He is married to his high school sweetheart, and together they are raising their 3-year-old son here in Tucson.
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.