For Raven, high school means more than just education. It also gives her a sense of accomplishment, a community, and at times, even access to necessities like food.

Raven has dealt with unstable living conditions for most of her life. Growing up, she shared that her mom, dad, and three siblings happily lived together at home. Things changed when her parents split up; Raven and her older brother stayed with her mom while her other sisters went with her dad. They left more than the house they grew up in, Raven and her family lost their sense of home. They moved from place to place, relying on family and friends to keep a roof over their heads. This continued until Raven’s mom got into a new relationship; that relationship came with somewhere to sleep at night.

Home life became increasingly difficult when Raven realized her mom was in an abusive relationship. School became a safety net for Raven; it was what allowed her to survive. School was a safe place to go during the day and always had two meals for her to eat. Classwork gave her something to focus on, and after-school extracurricular activities, like dance, gave her something to look forward to.

After determining that it was no longer safe for her to live with her mom, Raven started reaching out to neighbors and family members to see if she could stay with them. They happily let Raven sleep on their couch or in their guest room when they could. Unfortunately, this solution was temporary, and Raven knew that she needed something more stable.

While in DCS custody, Raven came to UMOM’s Independent Living Program for youth late in 2019. Upon arrival, she knew that she wanted to make the most of her time in the program. Now that she had a safe place to live, access to basic necessities, hot meals to eat every day, support from case managers and other trauma-informed professionals, she could focus on living her life as a teenager. Raven is excited to be able to focus on school, go to work, spend her free time at the gym, and work through previous trauma. She constantly engages in activities offered on-site and has built great relationships with her peers and UMOM staff.

A responsible and hardworking young woman, Raven has consistently held a job since she was 16 years old. She is taking driving classes to earn her Driver’s Permit and License soon; she is also saving to purchase her first car. Raven continues to be a prime example to her peers and often provides them with support and guidance.

Raven is learning to cope with the changes caused by COVID-19. She has a laptop and steady internet connection at the youth shelter to stay on top of her schoolwork. Though this school year ended abruptly, Raven is still dreaming about her high school graduation this December. She’s looking forward to walking across the stage and receiving her diploma after four years of hard work. Raven is looking at colleges and applying for scholarships to pursue her dream in becoming a medical examiner.