“When I was just a baby, my father died in an airplane crash, leaving my mother to care for me and my older brother. Because my father was the primary wage earner in the family, things immediately became worse for us. Growing up, I got used to skipping meals and feeling hungry all the time. I remember getting my first job at age six. You might think that six-year-olds don’t get jobs, but when you have a mother who is emotionally absent, it becomes a necessity. I stood on the street corner near the baseball stadium, waiting for foul balls to fly out the park. I earned one dollar for each ball I returned. By the end of every game, I had made enough money to buy something to eat that day.

My mother’s mental issues continued to worsen and made things very difficult, to the point where I made excuses to stay out of the house. School became my escape. At school, I had safety and stability. By the time I was a junior, I had had enough of my mother’s abuse and neglect. My older brother, who had relocated to Tucson, said I could move in with him. For the first time in many years, I felt happy.

I began my senior year without a backpack, pens, or notebooks. I managed to get by asking other kids for pieces of paper and picking up pens from the hallways. Just a week after enrolling in YOTO, I received a backpack full of school supplies from my Program Coordinator. The YOTO staff and volunteers really made me feel like I wasn’t not alone. They showed me that I wasn’t entirely by yourself, and that they’re were there to support me.

To this day, I still attend and do my best in school. I graduated from Amphi High School in 2013 and am currently attending the University of Arizona on a scholarship. My dream is to become a biomedical engineer. Despite all of the hardships I have gone through, I have learned the importance of doing my best and never giving up. Thank you, YOTO, for making my dreams a reality!”