Donald is a soft spoken youth with an infectious smile that lights up the whole room. When Donald was only three years old, he and his brother were placed with their grandmother because his parents were addicted to drugs. But when he was eleven, his grandmother became too elderly and infirm to care for them and they were placed into foster care. In the seven years that followed, Donald’s foster placements were often erratic, causing him to move a total of eight times
, to three foster homes and five group homes.
Despite near constant relocation, Donald managed to perform well in high school and excel in football. His athleticism earned him a partial scholarship to San Jose State University where, during his freshman year, he attended classes, made friends easily and played the sport he loved. He also worked part time to pay for the portion of his living expenses and tuition that was not covered by his scholarship. But in his sophomore year, he became overwhelmed by his overloaded schedule and was forced to choose between working to stay housed and staying in school
Out of school and back living in the Bay Area, Donald was having trouble maintaining steady employment to cover housing and basic needs. Work was sporadic and the last time Donald was laid off, he was forced to sleep at a transitional homeless shelter at night while looking for work during the day
. While checking in with ILSP, Donald learned about First Place. He applied, passed the necessary classes and moved into his own apartment. He utilized First Place’s education and employment services to create a budget and find a job working security that pays him enough to meet his monthly expenses. “First Place [employment end education staff] really went all out for me,” he says. “They taught me how to do well in a job interview and helped me get nice clothes to wear.”
Donald’s dream has always been to graduate from college, so his youth advocate worked with him on a plan to go back to school after he transitions out of the program. “One thing I realized is to take things like goals one at a time. When I was always worried about where I was gonna sleep, I couldn’t focus on getting a job. Now that I have a place to live and a job, my next goal is to get my degree. And I know I can achieve that goal
,” he says.