“My life wasn’t easy after my parents divorced. I knew I had to grow up fast because I didn’t have the full support of either of my parents. They were barely scraping by with food assistance, and neither of them had a job. I would frequently sleep over at another family member or friend’s house because my home life was so toxic. Finally, my parents told me not to return home again, because they couldn’t afford to take care of me. They said, “You’re 17, go get a job… you’ll be fine.”

A few months went by, and I had no way to make ends meet and no one to help me. I had applied to so many jobs but never got any calls. I didn’t know where else to turn for help… so I became a prostitute. I used the money I earned to buy food and have cash to get to school on the bus. I regret this decision every day, but at the time it was the only option I saw. I knew I needed help, but I didn’t know who could help me. Finally one day I had the nerve to tell someone. I spoke to my high school principal and told her my situation. I promised her I would never go back to prostitution again, and I am proud to say that I have fully kept that promise. I had no idea there were so many organizations out there that could help me. Once I knew that I wasn’t the only kid here in Tucson going through this, I realized it wasn’t my fault.

With YOTO supporting me, I was able to focus on graduating high school. I moved to an alternative school where I could complete classes at my own pace. When times got tough, I told myself that there are people at YOTO cheering for me and that I couldn’t let them down. I reminded myself what live was like before finding YOTO and how badly I did not want to break that promise to my former principal. I kept working, pushed through classes, and tried my best. I am proud to say that I graduated in the top 5% of my class. That is something I never thought I could do, but I was able to achieve this because of the help I got from YOTO.

I can’t wait to get my Associate’s degree from Pima Community College and to study the culinary arts. I know it will be tough, but if I can make it through what life has already thrown at me, I know I can handle college. I wouldn’t be on this path if it wasn’t for YOTO and all of the incredible people I have met along the way who accepted me and helped me reach my goals.”