The ever-expanding YOTO Family is made up of students, staff, volunteers, school liaisons, donors, members of the local media and business communities, and more! Every single person who has supported YOTO has done their part to make it possible for youth experiencing homelessness to graduate high school and pursue their dreams!

YOTO volunteer and retired educator, Jim Bowen shared why he and his wife Pat love YOTO. Jim and Pat have been volunteering as Caring Couriers since the program began in 2017. Caring Couriers deliver bags of food, toiletries, and school supplies to YOTO schools throughout Pima County every Wednesday. Once a month, these deliveries also include stipend checks for students who maintain good attendance and grades. Both Jim and Pat had experiences in their youth that make YOTO a very personal cause to them. Jim lived on his own during his last two years of high school. He was fortunate to receive support and direction from his high school principal who helped him stay on track and, eventually, inspired Jim to pursue a career in education. Pat grew up in Michigan, but as a teenager moved to Tucson to live with relatives. Jim and Pat met when Jim was in the Air Force at Davis-Monthan. Jim reflected, “In a way, being on our own brought us together.”

Jim closed by saying,

“Many YOTO kids have stories of instability and loss. But like Pat and I, they also have stories of success, accomplishment, and joy. We hope that like us, they find someone or something that inspires them to become the people they want to be. We love being part of an organization that help makes that happen.”

Vibrant and spirited YOTO alumna, Rashel Olalde, shared her story of overcoming the obstacles of being homeless in high school. Her experience challenged her, but with the help of YOTO, her school liaison, and her own tenacity, she was able to graduate! Rashel is currently attending the University of Arizona and majoring in Family Studies and Human Development. Late last year, Rashel collaborated with YOTO’s CEO Elizabeth Slater on an op-ed featured in the Washington Post on housing insecurity among homeless college students during school breaks. Rashel is currently advocating for stable, accessible university housing for homeless students during times when school dorms are closed. With her past experience informing her future goals, Rashel spoke about her dream to one day become the CEO of Youth On Their Own – to which she received a resounding round of applause!


Finally, YOTO Board Member Sean Denlinger remarked about his experience growing up with a single mother and four brothers and the hardships and stress he and his family faced, and the importance of focusing on our kids.

As Sean said,

“Our kids need to be worrying about their grades, their homework, their futures – not where to eat and who to talk to when it feels like there isn’t anyone in their corner. I want to help young people experiencing these feelings of loneliness or helplessness be empowered. I want young people today to have a better chance to get ahead.”

Thank you, Jim, Rashel, and Sean, for sharing why you are members of the YOTO Family!

Help Us Meet the Match
YOTO's Volunteer Group of the Year Award