Student Stories

Student Stories


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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Wade

Wade was born to a teenage mother who, unable to support her child, gave up custody to his grandmother. He was raised by his grandma for over a decade… until one day, her boyfriend started getting abusive. An irresponsible addict, this man often forced Wade to stay home from school so he could take care of the household instead of furthering his education. One day, Wade couldn’t take it anymore: while at school, he reported his living situation to a counselor and was ultimately placed in the care of a foster family. Wade spent years in and out of foster …

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Lula

Although she’s only 18 years old, Lula’s short life has been a roller coaster. When she was 16, her mother packed her things and left Arizona… leaving her daughter alone in their family home. Lula was distraught, even attempting suicide before she was finally placed in a group home by DCS. The environment in her group home was toxic, so after she turned 18, Lula decided to leave. She found comfort in the arms of a man who promised her everything she never had: protection, security, and love. She thought she was finally safe. After a few weeks, Lula found …

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Jenna

Jenna grew up in a household where it seemed like the only priority was getting high. Her parents were avid drug users, often neglecting their children and leaving them on their own for long periods of time. Eventually, Jenna and her sisters were removed from the home by DCS and placed with their grandfather, where they’ve lived for the past few years. Sadly, they still face economic hardship as their grandfather cannot afford to provide for all of their needs. When her grandfather’s health began to fail, Jenna knew she needed to reach out for help. She enrolled in Youth …

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Teri

Teri’s parents weren’t interested in having a loving relationship with their only daughter. Instead, they chose to verbally and emotionally abuse her for years. According to Teri, “My parents have always been disrespectful and rude to me, even when I tried my best. They like to call me names – like whore or slut.” After talking with her high school counselor, she finally had the confidence to leave her toxic living environment. Teri now lives with a classmate and her family. She has had no contact with her parents and has had difficulty finding a part-time job after school because …

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Jeremy

Jeremy and his mother have always had a rocky relationship: never getting along and fighting constantly. After his mother threw him on the streets, he had a hard time finding somewhere to stay. His girlfriend, the only supportive person in his life, found out she was pregnant at the end of their junior year. For the two teenagers, it seemed like there would be no hope in graduating. When Jeremy found out about Youth On Their Own, he was skeptical; he had been turned away time and time again from other agencies. His YOTO Program Coordinator immediately gave him several …

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Marco

Marco and his 8 siblings moved in with their grandfather after their mother was thrown in jail. Although he was the middle child, Marco always felt like the “big brother” and responsible for taking care of his brothers and sisters. At just 9 years old, Marco grew up way too quickly. He learned to wear a tough exterior so that he could survive in the neighborhood they lived in. By the time he was in high school, he had witnessed the deaths of 3 friends and had seen much more than other young men his age. Marco’s grandfather constantly struggled …

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