Youth On Their Own Alumna Serves as Global Correspondent for U.S. Dept. of State Scholarship Program
Tucson, AZ – Elizabeth Camarillo-Gutierrez is the epitome of a successful college student. Elizabeth is currently a junior studying philosophy, politics, and economics. This semester, she has the incredible opportunity to study abroad in the United Kingdom as part of her Benjamin A. Gilman Scholarship, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.
Elizabeth is bright, she’s eloquent, and she’s motivated… but what many people may not know is that she was one of over 1,000 homeless students served by Youth On Their Own during the 2013-2014 school year.
Youth On Their Own (YOTO), a local non-profit dropout prevention agency, eliminates barriers to education and empowers Pima County’s homeless youth to stay in school. The organization does this by providing accountability-based financial assistance and one-on-one supportive services to homeless and at-risk students so they can focus less on survival and more on their studies.
Elizabeth enrolled in the YOTO program after her parents’ visas were denied and they had to return to Mexico. She was only a freshman in high school… but as a U.S. citizen, she remained in Tucson to complete her education. She spent the next several years living with a host family and distant relatives. She spent the majority of her high school years living with a relative, but still struggled to stay in school as poverty and financial issues burdened the household. Despite her unique circumstances, Elizabeth shined in the classroom: she consistently made A’s and B’s, allowing her to earn a monthly stipend of $140 from YOTO to help cover some of her living expenses.
Her hard work paid off. Elizabeth graduated from Flowing Wells High School in 2014 and has continued her education at the University of Pennsylvania. According to Elizabeth, working hard and striving to do her best has always been a part of who she is. “I grew up in an immigrant community… and I knew personally, to make my family proud, that really meant pursuing my education and challenging myself in every way possible.”
Stories just like Elizabeth’s are why the YOTO program continues to thrive in the community. According to Chief Executive Officer, Nicola Hartmann, Elizabeth’s story is a shining example of how bright, capable, and tenacious the students in this community are. “This is why YOTO exists. With a little support, caring, and guidance, the possibilities are endless.”
To learn more about Elizabeth and stay up-to-date on her travels, visit the Gilman Scholarship Program YouTube page.
To read more about Elizabeth’s experiences, visit her blog post.
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.