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.
“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!
President and CEO