Youth Spotlight: Roger
“It’s fun to not be a statistic.” – Roger, 19, York County, Valley Youth House’s Adolescents Achieving Independence (AAI) program
Roger’s journey to Valley Youth House began in upstate New York on his grandfather’s farm before he eventually came to York County, Pennsylvania. While going back and forth between the states, he was in a detention center, in and out of foster care, homeless and living in shelters. It was at a boys group home in York County where he first learned about Valley Youth House.
Roger started Valley Youth House’s Adolescents Achieving Independence (AAI) program two years ago as a way to receive a stipend to earn money for a car. All of the other boys in his group home were participating and so he thought he might as well, too. At the very least, he’d earn some spending money, while learning some independent living skills along the way. But it turns out, Roger learned so much more than he could have guessed.
Valley Youth House’s AAI program serves youth that are currently in foster care or have been recently released from foster care. While in the program, youth receive assistance in locating permanent housing, attend weekly individual life skills counseling, summer education, cultural and recreational events focusing on life skills development, and ongoing life skills development groups. AAI staff also act as a liaison between the youth and their school/college and refer youth to job training programs.
While in the AAI program, Roger participated in discussions, games, and classes aimed at learning the life skills needed to live independently. He appreciated learning how to save and budget his money, which he lamented that he never learned how to do in school.
“Valley Youth House’s AAI program isn’t just about learning checks and balances, it’s about the emotional support they provide” Roger says. Through the program, he said that he learned that “not everybody is out to get you. And you have to ask for help. It’s okay.”
Roger says that “being in the system can be so lonely…” But at Valley Youth House he was able to get the extra support he needed to get through a particularly tough time in his life.
When his girlfriend committed suicide, it was his Life Skills Counselor, Jenna Foltz, who was there for him. Roger says he is so appreciative of the coping skills that she taught him and how she helped him “connect the dots” and be there for him during this time. A particularly moving experience during the program was when Jenna accompanied Roger to the cemetery to help him process his emotions around his girlfriend’s death.
Another time, when Roger found himself staying with a bad influence and recognizing that he needed to leave, who did he call? He called Jenna. Our Valley Youth House counselors, like Jenna, continuously go above and beyond to ensure the safety and wellbeing of those we serve. Roger says he called Jenna, “who wasn’t even on the clock” and she came and picked him up to bring him to safety. Describing Jenna, Roger says, “she’s pretty cool, she’s a mentor, we’re super close” and that he’d like to stay in touch even though he’s completed all of the AAI sessions offered.
Jenna says she is so very proud of how far he’s come and the growth he’s shown while in the AAI program.
Roger says that as a kid he was labeled as a “trouble-maker” and was told he’d overdose before he was 18. He takes pride in the fact that he is clean and turned 19 recently. “It’s fun to not be a statistic,” he says.
Roger is proud to be “doing the right things” and how he has become his own leader. “With everything I’ve been through, I keep pushing through the hard things in life.”
His goal is to continue his passion – art. Roger says he’s loved art and expressing himself through pictures ever since he was a child. He enjoys tattooing and drawing pictures, which he says can tell a story in a million words. Roger – we are so glad to have VYH as a part of your story!