TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — Youth On Their Own is dedicated to helping disadvantaged teens.
"I only really had one pair of shoes. I had to wear clothes that didn't fit me," said Rashel Olalde, an ambassador for Youth On Their Own. Olalde started with the non profit when she was 16. Her parents were immigrants and they had to go back to Mexico.
"My parents were no longer able to care for me or provide for me and I really wanted to further my education so I came to Tucson to live with one of my aunts," said Olalde. It was through her Spanish teacher she heard about the non profit.
"From that moment on, I was able to get like clothes, food, hygiene products, school supplies, things that I really needed that I wasn't able to get before," said Olalde. This is the kind of help youth on their own is giving to teens just like Rashel and now they've been able to buy a brand new building to help reach even more students in need.
"Which is where we're gonna be serving 1,500 youth who experience homelessness and are working really hard to stay in school and on track to graduate," said CEO Youth On Their Own Elizabeth Slater. She says this building is set to do two amazing things.
"First, it is so much bigger than our current space. It's going to enable us to serve youth so much better because we can have more basic need supplies for them to provide more guidance. The second thing is it's really going to function as a drop in space so that youth that are experiencing homelessness have a safe space where they can be outside of school," said Slater.
Buying and now renovating the building is all possible thanks to this. "Angel charities raising $750,000 to help us renovate this beautiful building and make it really youth friendly and trauma informed," said Slater.
This is where Youth On Their Own is hoping to help even more students experiencing homelessness. "They're going to come here to access basic needs items like food, hygiene supplies clothing school supplies," said Slater.
The non profit also launched an alumni program that provides extra support for whatever is the next step after high school.
"So, those first few years, while they're learning how to just become adults and be self-sufficient, we provide some extra support, basic need supplies. We help them look for jobs and just provide some scholarships and other kinds of support," said Slater.
It's help like this, that has been part of Rashel's road to success. She had a moment where her dreams for college were crushed but she talked to a college and care program coordinator and that gave her the hope to make it through.
"She helped me apply for scholarships and financial aid and I was able to get a full-ride scholarship to u of a," said Olalde. And now the future is looking extra bright.
Youth On Their own receives no federal funding so they rely on donations of hygiene supplies and food. They also take monetary donations. For more information on how to donate visit yoto.org
Lydia Camarillo is an anchor and reporter for KGUN 9. Lydia is no stranger to the Old Pueblo. She has been reporting in Tucson for more than a decade and has been involved in numerous projects highlighting folks in the community. Share your story ideas and important issues with Lydia by emailing email@example.com or by connecting on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.