07.09.2014

Partnering for Student Success: The YMCA’s Independent Living Program

By Ana Lucia Degel, Treehouse Education Specialist

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As an Education Specialist, I work with many students preparing to transition from high school to adulthood. This time in life can be daunting for many youth in the foster care system, as they need to secure safe housing, dependable employment, and the skills to live on their own all at once. By partnering with programs like the YMCA’s Independent Living Program, we are able to help current and former foster youth through their transition from the foster care system into independence. By working together, we are able to focus on the areas in which we have the most expertise and resources so that we are supporting students in as many areas of life as possible without duplicating efforts.

I started to work with Jasmin last September, at the beginning of her senior year of high school. Jasmin has faced many challenges this year, including homelessness, searching for a job, obtaining the credits needed for her high school diploma, and trying to prepare for community college in the fall. Through this transitionary time, I have been thankful for the support Parisa at the YMCA’s Independent Living Program has provided Jasmin.

Jasmin

“I felt like I had a lot of support through both Parisa and Ana. They inspired me to do my best every day and make the best of everyday. We made plans and scheduled deadlines together and followed through with the deadlines.” – JasminDuring the school year, I helped Jasmin stay on top of her high school graduation requirements, apply for college and financial aid, and apply for a Barista Training Program. But, in order to successfully make the transition to living on her own, Jasmin still needed to find safe housing, set up a budget, and learn independent living skills. Parisa’s expertise in those areas was crucial. Once Parisa identified what resources were available to Jasmin, I was able to hold Jasmin accountable to filling out applications, following up on deadlines, and turning in paperwork. We’ve also helped Jasmin identify a positive social network of support and have talked with her about how the various peer and family relationships in her life can help her make healthy decisions that will support her in reaching her goals.

Jasmin especially feels like it is important for the various service providers in her life to work together. Parisa and I stayed in communication with one another and Jasmin’s counselor to make sure that Jasmin had the support she needed to finish the school year with a plan. It is always incredible to connect with another adult who shares the same commitment to supporting a youth who we work with. Parisa’s practical support has been critical in helping get Jasmin prepared to live independently. However, the most powerful work she has done has been to support Jasmin and be a part of her team to help problem solve and foster Jasmin’s independence, confidence, and growth as a young adult.

“It is comforting to know that Jasmin can rely on Ana not only for educational support but in many other areas as well. Jasmin is now in college and has found stable housing! I am very proud of her for all her accomplishments and I know Ana is too. It has been an amazing experience getting to work with Jasmin and Ana Lucia together as a team.” – Parisa

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About the Author

As a Treehouse Education Specialist, Ana Lucia Degel meets with middle and high school students in the Highline, Seattle, and Tukwila school districts to help them stay on track in their classes, set meaningful goals, and transition to fulfill their post-secondary dreams.


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