Dec 2, 2019

Give the gifts of hope, dignity, and joy to a youth

Keshawn's GED graduation
Keshawn's GED graduation

This holiday season, the LAYC family is reflecting on the inspiring stories of young people who have drawn upon their own resiliency and inner strength to achieve academic and personal milestones so significant they are altering the course for the generation that follows them. Among other obstacles, many of these youth have faced homelessness and at some point in their journey. 

With your support, our young people have found belonging, dignity, and hope, which have unlocked talents and strengths that enabled them to persevere toward their goals. Keshawn is one of those youth.

When Keshawn first came to LAYC, she had assumed her background and circumstances meant she was destined for an unfortunate future. However, she was determined to fight for a happy life for herself and her newborn son. Keshawn recalls, “I didn't want to be just another statistic…a young mother who is black who dropped out, who had a kid and doesn't know anything.”

While caring for a new baby, Keshawn studied for her GED at LAYC. Even when classes were not in session, she committed to studying on her own. However, accumulating family expenses and housing needs made it hard to stay focused and see her studies through to the end.

Despite feeling depressed and wanting to give up at times, Keshawn managed to stay motivated because of her love for her son and the support of LAYC staff that checked in daily, treating her with dignity and respect and offering constant compassion and encouragement.

“So many young people are going through so many problems. We really need to have support, like someone checking in…making sure you’re ok.”

In addition, support from individuals like you helped us provide wraparound supports to Keshawn, including a program stipend, diaper donations, meals, employment connections, and family-friendly housing. This gave her the room to breathe and continue with her studies while feeling confident that she was a good mother to her son.

“[LAYC staff] helped me to see my worth…we all make mistakes. As long as you show up and keep going, and want the best for yourself, you can do it.”

Keshawn has now passed all sections of her GED and is completing professional certifications at LAYC. She feels extremely proud knowing that she persisted, and has set a course for a better future for her son. Joining many past LAYC participants, Keshawn was so touched by her experience with genuine and caring case managers that she wants to become a social worker. “I want to help people feel the way LAYC staff made me feel.” 

Unfortunately, not all young people like Keshawn feel seen, respected, or empowered to seek the resources and supports that can unlock their full potential. Through your contribution, LAYC staff can continue to provide opportunities for youth to fulfill their hopes and dreams.

On behalf of the entire LAYC family, thank you for giving the gifts of joy, dignity and hope to our youth!

Oct 17, 2019

You are helping Lucas succeed in school!

LAYC Housing building
LAYC Housing building

Lucas is a dedicated student who faced many challenges along his academic journey, including homelessness. He found a place to live and was connected to the resources he needed to succeed in LAYC’s housing program. Here is his story:

 I love education. I want to continue to study a lot, and I want to know everything. By going to a university I can start to do that. I want to set an example to many people showing them that it is not easy to follow your dreams, but not impossible to learn many new things.”

Despite Lucas’ passion for learning, he encountered multiple obstacles to his academic his home country of Honduras, and ultimately had to leave school to work and support his family. His academic progress was further disrupted when he was 17 years old, when he traveled to the United States.

Lucas remembers, “The first day school was difficult. I was pretty lost in a school that was so big. The teachers were kind, but I did not understand the language. Despite the challenges I faced, after the first day I just wanted to be in school. I went to school at 7:40am and left at 6:00pm. I was able to go on many school trips to museums and learned a lot of things that I would not have learned in my home country.”

On top of entering a new school, in a new language, Lucas had to find housing. This past year, Lucas has been working hard with his LAYC case manager in LAYC’s Transitional Living Program to achieve various goals. He enrolled in a health insurance program and enrolled in summer school to complete his educational requirements more quickly.

According to LAYC staff, Lucas has a positive attitude, is always smiling, and makes it a point to support other youth around him. It came as no surprise that Lucas joined LAYC’s Latino Youth Leadership Council, which works to amplify the voices of Latino youth and advocate on their behalf.

Lucas’ sense of security and well-being has greatly improved this year. In addition to continuing his education, he is maintaining a job in a restaurant, and taking time to enjoy his hobbies of painting and listening to music. Lucas has now enrolled in college and is pursuing a major in architecture.  With the support of LAYC staff, he secured a scholarship to enroll in two college courses for free. 

 “From these experiences I learned that no matter how difficult the journey is, one should never give up. I will never stop until I reach all my dreams and beyond, because fulfilling these dreams will help show people like me that they can do it too.”

Thank you so much for supporting LAYC’s homeless youth programs. Your contribution is vital to our work connecting youth like Lucas to stable housing and employment so that they can make a successful transition to adulthood.


President and CEO

Jul 11, 2019

James' journey from homeless teen to engineering undergrad

Youth high school graduation celebration
Youth high school graduation celebration

James, a formerly homeless youth who was struggling to achieve his dreams of attending college and finding meaningful employment, has now completed high school, been accepted to college with several scholarships, and is even enjoying a summer lifeguard gig!

Read James’ story here:

James was raised in an ultra-conservative religious community, along with five siblings. After he developed basic reading and writing skills, His academic studies were halted so that he could focus solely on studying the religious text. James had no access to libraries or the internet, and was discouraged from pursuing further life experience or knowledge outside of his religious community. However, James sensed he would achieve great success and fulfillment along further educational pathways, if he was just presented with opportunities to realize his full potential.

At the age of 17, James left the community, which also meant giving up the only family he had ever known. James began a new life on his own, stopping in different cities where he hoped to find a job and eventually attend college. However, his homeless status, lack of a high school diploma, and absence of a support network, made pursuing these goals a challenge.

Fortunately, James moved to DC and was connected to the DC Reengagement Center and LAYC. He was able to enroll in school and obtain shelter, food stamps, and health insurance. After a couple of months in a shelter, James joined LAYC’s three-week host homes program and, upon turning 18, he joined LAYC’s 18-month transitional living program. In these programs, he accessed a wide range of services and supports that provided safety and peace of mind, and made it possible for him to realize his educational goals.

From James:

During my time with LAYC, the staff helped me go shopping for clothes, get my learner’s permit, set up a bank account and credit card, obtain mental health services, and [set up medical appointments], among other things. It was the peace of mind that I got from having a place to stay and staff who were always happy to help me with anything I needed that allowed me to complete high school, be accepted to college, receive several scholarships, and get a summer job as a lifeguard during this time. The program even covered my college acceptance fee and an eye appointment that was not covered by insurance.”

While involved in LAYC’s housing programs, James also took advantage of recreational and social activities, and he celebrated his journey and accomplishments with other LAYC youth at a high school graduation party.

Along his journey, James found confidence and hope for his future. He remains motivated and continues to reach for the stars.

“I’m going to Iowa State University this August and I plan on majoring in aerospace engineering. I hope to then get a master’s in business administration, with the ultimate goal of starting my own aircraft manufacturing company.”

I am so proud of the fact that LAYC staff serve and support youth from all walks of life as they transition to adulthood. James’ story is one of thousands of testimonies that youth facing challenging circumstances can thrive and achieve meaningful goals with the support of caring adults and comprehensive, individualized supports.

Thank you for believing in and supporting youth like James!

Lupi Quinteros-Grady
President and CEO

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