TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - This school year is the first time a local non-profit is offering at-risk teens paid internships.
"I wish I had like a mother figure," said Esmeralda Gallardo, a participant in the program. "I kind of feel like its more of a separation so I'm kind of like on my own."
Esmeralda has done it on her own, along with more than 1,500 other kids and teens in Pima County.
When 18-year-old Esmeralda needed help, she turned to Youth On Their Own.
"I was in a big hole. I was actually losing motivation, I couldn't get another job, I just had a really hard time because I wasn't able to pay my bills. I didn't like having to ask for money."
Now she's one of nine high school students going through a paid internship program.
Youth On Their Own partnered with the UA allowing students to get on-the-job experience at their home store while receiving class credit.
Students spend 11 hours in the program each week. One hour devoted to retail curriculum and the other 10 hours working the sales floor.
The resale store specializes in selling gently used and new home goods.
All the proceeds benefit the Youth On Their Own program by helping kids stay on track to graduate high school.
"I have a 3.86 GPA going there and I loved everything I accomplished there. So I feel like if I wasn't in this program I probably would have a different life."
Esmeralda also works another job part time and it set to graduate from Tucson High School in May. She then hopes to join the U.S. Air Force, where she can continue to give back to the community.
Click here if you are interested in making a donation to the Youth On Their Own program.