As we prepare to celebrate the graduations of our loved ones, please consider supporting a young person with no support system. Here is how we support young people in obtaining their diplomas.
When Destiny* was 16, her mother kicked her out of the house for getting pregnant. Being homeless and pregnant rocked her world in more ways than one. She knew she wanted to parent, but she had almost no resources to support her. Homeless, she was sleeping on friends’ couches and eating whatever food she could get at school or at friends’ places. Having no stability or emotional support, she found it difficult to meet her basic needs of food and health.
That’s when a friend told her to go to Face to Face. When she walked into SafeZone, Face to Face’s homeless youth drop-in center in downtown St. Paul, the staff sat down with her and asked about her needs. Destiny was reluctant to explain all the challenges she was facing. She was used being treated with judgment and verbal abuse by her mother when she asked for help.
The staff at Face to Face was different. Their nonjudgmental attitude made Destiny feel at ease. She opened up and told them she didn’t have a safe place to call home and was unexpectedly pregnant. She met with an insurance navigator at SafeZone, who helped her get enrolled in state insurance. The staff referred her to the Face to Face medical clinic for her pregnancy care.
That same day at SafeZone, Destiny ate her first hot meal in weeks, did her laundry, and took a hot shower. “I felt so relieved that I could lock the door to the bathroom. I didn’t feel like I was using someone else’s space. I actually felt comfortable and like I could relax a little,” she remembers. Before she went back to a friend’s house, she was given soap, a toothbrush and toothpaste, and new underwear.
Staff at SafeZone referred her to a doctor at Face to Face medical clinic, who helped reduce her morning sickness and provided information for keeping herself and her baby healthy.
Halfway through her pregnancy, she was accepted into Face to Face’s housing program. She was able to get her own apartment, where she paid part of the rent and Face to Face subsidized the remainder.
She continued going to SafeZone for support, such as free maternity clothing, food, and a car seat for her baby. She also learned about ensuring safe sleep for her baby and how to calm a newborn.
Throughout her pregnancy, Destiny kept going to school. She knew the importance of education, and she liked math and science. She became interested in computers and technology.
However, after she gave birth, she was unable to keep up with school. Her high school didn’t have child care, and she didn’t have family or friends who could watch her baby while she went to school. At 17, she dropped out of high school.
A few months later, she was introduced to Laura, the education coordinator at SafeZone, who helped her study for her GED. They took a practice test together, and Destiny did well on her math and science. This gave her the confidence and motivation she needed to keep trying for her GED. While her baby napped, she studied.
After a few months of studying, Destiny passed her GED! At Saint Paul Public Schools’ graduation for GED earners, Destiny proudly walked across the stage in her cap and gown. “She was so determined and dedicated,” Laura remembers.
“Destiny was so very proud of getting her GED. It did a lot for her self-confidence and really made her feel that she could pursue anything and accomplish it! She was able to concentrate on getting her GED because she was able to get support with housing for two years,” said a SafeZone staff member.
After finishing her GED, Destiny went on to pursue an associate’s degree in the IT field. She now works for a large national bank in their tech support department. She has health insurance through her employer, and she’s able to afford child care for her now-toddler. She still has the apartment that Face to Face helped her get, but now she pays the full rent.
“I’m really proud of myself for getting my GED and pursuing my education. The support of the staff at Face to Face really helped me get to a good place and accomplish things. I’m really grateful to them,” Destiny remarked. “And now I can give my son what I didn’t have growing up.”
Please support our youth as they pursue their educational goals. When youth don’t have to worry about their basic needs like housing, food, and hygiene needs, they have an opportunity to think about educational goals and career pathways thinking long term instead of being in survival mode.
Your $500 donation helps ten homeless youth have a safe place to go this summer. $165 allows one young person to go to therapy for an hour. $100 allows a pregnant young person to access quality medical care.
A $50 donation helps ten youth get basic personal care and clothing items like t-shirts, boxers, toothpaste, and shampoo. $30 provides a bus card for youth to get to appointments, work, or to an overnight shelter.
Your support is essential for the youth of our community to not only survive, but also thrive. Please give today. Click here.
Hanna Getachew-Kreusser, MA