Class begins on Aug. 6 and The Women of Quail Creek are busy collecting school supplies for Youth On Their Own students at Sahuarita and Walden Grove High schools.
Youth On Their Own is an education-focused dropout prevention 501(C)(3) non-profit program that supports high school graduation of abandoned youth in grades 6-12 who are enrolled in a public, private or charter school in Pima County.
The primary objective of YOTO is to help homeless teens finish high school by providing basic needs of food, clothing, a place to live and other necessities.
Last school year, YOTO served 1,741 students in Pima County.
It’s difficult to imagine students as young as 11 and in the sixth grade not having a home and basic needs fulfilled. Yet that’s the situation for many students who may no longer have a home due to a parent or parents abandoning them, being on drugs, poverty, incarceration of a parent and other social issues.
Diane Quinn, a member of The Women of Quail Creek, said before she and the members didn’t know there were YOTO students in Sahuarita and Walden Grove High Schools. Three years ago they began to help with fundraising.
“The Women of Quail Creek were looking for a new project to get involved with. Since we started to help YOTO, it has been such a big thing for us.
“The youngest YOTO student last school year was 10 years old. Some children go to live in foster homes. Others may be shifted from one relative to another,” Quinn explained. “When this happens children often have to change schools and environments, which creates another difficult social situation.”
Every school with YOTO students has a school employee who acts as an in-school volunteer and verifies grades and attendance. Students need to meet attendance and grade expectations to qualify for a $140 a month stipend to help with basic living expenses.
Yet this amounts to only $4.60 a day, which is barely enough for school supplies.
To help YOTO students start the school year off successfully, needed school supplies include high-quality, adult-sized backpacks filled with donated items. Smaller needed items for the bags include mechanical pencils, highlighters, markers, colored pencils, composition notebooks, packs of index cards, folders, binders and $10 and $25 gift cards to allow students to do some of their own shopping.
Supplies that are donated beyond local needs are given to YOTO, which runs a “mini mall” for basic needs in Tucson.
“We want to help and organize in a way that is tangible. Students may order items online from the mini mall and a volunteer courier will deliver them,” Quinn said.
To donate locally, a bin for school supplies is located in the lobby of Quail Creek’s Madera Clubhouse, 2055 E. Quail Crossing Blvd., open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Checks may be made out to YOTO, placed in an envelope and dropped off as well.
Anyone who would like to have their back-to-school donations picked up, call Diane Quinn at 520-591-7935.
YOTO does not receive any state or federal funding. It depends on individual and corporate donations.
Contact Green Valley News freelance reporter Ellen Sussman at email@example.com.