Student Stories

Student Stories


Jose

“My parents, siblings and I used to visit family in Mexico all the time… but during one of those visits, my father lost his visa. My mother panicked when she had to travel back to us without my father. She had to decide what to do: either stay in Tucson and find a job, or pack everything and go back to Mexico. I was only 10 years old. After moving back to Mexico, it was rough. I had to get used to the new language I knew so little of. When my siblings and I had to enroll in high …

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Jewel

“When I was preparing for my seventeenth birthday, neither of my parents had had a job in over 7 years… so we were extremely poor. My mother stopped taking us to the doctor, buying us clothes and toiletries, caring about our education, and our home. We had not had any running water, gas, air conditioning, or a clean living space in over 5 years. She was a severe alcoholic and abused her medication, and from time to time, strange people would sleep at our house. Often there was nothing to eat, you could only shower with a bucket, there were …

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Jailene

“As a child, I was in and out of different homes because of how irresponsible my parents were. It was ridiculous how many times I had to move schools and how socially unstable I was. I felt lonely and as if I was a bother in life. My brothers and I lived in about 5 or 6 different homes because my mother worked a minimum-wage job due to her lack of a high school diploma. She didn’t have enough money to support us, so one day she decided it was best for her to move to Canada and leave us …

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Evangelina

“The Theory of Chaos proposes that a butterfly’s wings in Brazil can cause a tornado in Texas. Is it not ironic that chaos, something hectic and unplanned, would not happen at all if it was not articulated and timed perfectly? I see this theory as an important analogy for my life. When I was sixteen years old, my mother became chronically ill. She was in the hospital for over a year, with over 6 surgeries, and a seemingly endless list of complications. We lost everything… and my little sister and I began living with our grandmother. Our house was taken …

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Julian

When Julian was a young child, his parents divorced and his father quickly exited the picture. His mother soon met a guy, and this new addition to their family was anything but pleasant. This man was strict, demanding, and abusive to their mother… causing Julian and his younger brother to feel unsafe in their own home. When his father attempted to reconnect in their teen years, Julian opted to move in with him – anything to get away from the overbearing man currently ruling his mother’s life. Living with his father turned out to be a much worse situation, so …

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Omar

Omar grew up surrounded by alcoholics, drug users, and gang activity… even getting involved with a local gang at a young age because he was tricked into feeling safe and secure. His parents didn’t care where he was or what he was doing, especially whether or not he went to school. Omar hated being made fun of by his classmates for not understanding the curriculum, so he stopped going to school altogether. Eventually, his neglectful parents kicked him out and he was completely on his own. Omar was offered help by positive role models in his life – even his …

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Khalil

“I was raised in Iraq… specifically, in the Sinjar Mountain region. When I was a teenager, ISIS attacked us because we were not Muslim and they gave us a choice: either become Muslim, or lose your head. Fortunately, I got a chance to come to the United States because my brother was a translator for the army. ISIS ended up killing thousands of my people – the Yazidis – before we finally fled to the mountains. I stayed there for 8 days without food or water. My family arrived in the U.S. in 2015. Within 1 month, my little nephew …

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Alex

Growing up, Alex and his brother witnessed more than their fair share domestic violence. Their dad was an alcoholic, and their mother couldn’t control her temper or hold down a job. During the worst of times, Alex resorted to selling drugs in order to make ends meet for their family. Watching his older brother graduate from high school made him realize that he needed to clean up his act. When his parents eventually split, Alex was kicked to the curb: his parents chose their new families and step-children over Alex, who only felt like a burden. He spent months going …

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Mariah

Mariah and her family were new to Tucson; that’s why it came as such as shock to Mariah when her parents kicked her out of the house. She had recently broken the news to them about her pregnancy, and they wanted nothing to do with her. Other than her teachers and classmates, Mariah didn’t know a single soul in the city. According to her, “I was pregnant, young, and confused… all I knew was that I needed to get my act together and FAST. My daughter’s future depended on me.” Mariah heard about Youth On Their Own through her high …

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Janie

When Janie was a teenager, her relationship with her father was strained. Years of neglect, lies, and distrust had severed their bond… but at the time, Janie had no one else to turn to. One day, after an argument spiraled out of control, she was ultimately removed from the home by the Department of Child Safety where she stayed in a group home for several years. Today, Janie has been reunited with her grandparents who, although happy to take her in, still struggle to support her financially. She heard about YOTO through a friend at school, and the program has …

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Jason

Jason grew up loving both of his parents, but he knew they were not good role models. His abusive father was in and out of prison, and his mother – addicted to heroin – struggled with keeping her children off of the streets. To make ends meet, she’d often trick them into following her to “junkie dens” and other unsafe environments. When he got older, Jason eventually went to live with his grandparents… but shortly after he heard of his mother’s death, his grandmother also passed away. The house was foreclosed, and Jason spent the next several years bouncing from …

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Carly

Carly’s father was incarcerated and her mother was never part of her life, so she lived with her grandparents since she was an infant. Her grandfather struggled with alcoholism for many years, but eventually his addiction spiraled out of control. On repeated occasions, he tried to have sex with her. Her grandmother – who was on mood stabilizers and battled with her own mental illness – couldn’t protect her granddaughter. Carly lived in fear and shame until her grandfather eventually left and her grandmother passed away. Carly is a junior and now lives with her boyfriend – one of the …

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