One of Youth In Need’s greatest strengths is its staff! There isn’t a more committed, compassionate and caring group of people who truly live an organization’s mission. Whether it’s front-line service staff working with children, youth and families daily, or administrative staff supporting that important work, everyone at Youth In Need is working together with a common goal in mind: To build on the strengths of children, youth and families so they find safety, hope and success in life.
Youth In Need is extremely lucky to have long-tenured staff. It seems that when people join the Youth In Need family, they stay. So, we started thinking about what makes our stellar staff stay at Youth In Need. Why do they work here?
What better way to find out than to ask them. Staff have been sharing their stories and "selfies" with us. Take a look, and learn a little bit more about the heart of Youth In Need.
Why I Work at Youth In Need
“Other people may be there to help us, teach us, guide us along our path, but the lesson to be learned is always ours.” -Unknown
“Since the age of 12, I have been sent from placement to placement. In 2009, my parents took me to Youth In Need, and my mother said: ‘Well, Gabs, this is your last chance…make it work.’ I was mortified at the thought of being at a new place and starting all over again—for what felt like the millionth time. The first thing that shocked me when I arrived at the Transitional Living Program (TLP) was that it was a house. A real house. There was no security fence. We had real neighbors, and the kids were outside without supervision. As soon as I walked in, I was stunned. There were kids laughing and playing video games; the staff members were all super welcoming and very friendly. I was not used to that. I had been in placements where the staff were so uptight and intimidating. I was informed I’d be going to a “real high school” with kids my age and that I could have freedom and be able to hang out with friends, which is one of the many things I was never able to do before.
I was no angel my during my three-year stay. (I was their longest-staying resident at the time). I had my rebellious times, but Youth In Need refused to turn their backs on me, unlike everywhere else I had been. With counseling and life skills, they taught me everything I needed to know to live a ‘normal life.’
In May 2011, I graduated high school and not too much longer after that, I got my first job down on Main Street (two things my mother told me I would never be able to do). On Dec. 28, 2011, I graduated Youth In Need’s program and moved into my own apartment where I took all the budgeting and life skills Youth In Need taught me. Now it’s 2014, and I’m their new Administrative Assistant in their St. Louis County office!
Youth In Need gave me something I thought and was told by many people I would never have… a ‘normal life.’ The definition of normalcy is vague…but the fact of the matter is: I graduated high school; I’m on my own, and have an amazing job for the best company I could ever imagine to work for. I accepted their help, I gave it my all, and I’m so proud to be where I am today and that is only because of Youth In Need and all that we as a company believe in. So, thank you for believing in me, especially when I sure as heck didn’t. Thank you for being my new-found family…time and time again.”
“I have been with Youth In Need for seven and a half years. I started out as a Teacher at the Kingshighway Head Start location. I started working two months before my wedding. Little did I know that my life was forever changing. I realized that I was working for an amazing company that truly cared for children and staff. I realized that real people still existed that had a true passion for others and motivated all parents to achieve at high levels, no matter their past experiences in life. As I went through my journey at Youth In Need, I realized that I was also able to share my life-changing, fun, emotional and sad events with people that cared about me and my well being. I really enjoy the challenges, but the most rewarding experiences are the parents that come and visit us with nothing but praise and gratitude for the services we provided their entire family. It's moments like this that makes me feel good knowing I made a difference in the lives of people.”
“Growing up in the environment I did, experiencing the circumstances my family and I faced...we didn't have a voice and if even we did, it wouldn't have been heard. My parents were divorced, and my father had schizophrenia. My mom raised two kids by herself. We were very poor, even though my mom worked a full-time job. We lived in the half of a story and a half, with a space heater to keep us warm, 20 steps to our door and one bedroom that my mom, brother and I shared. Once, when I was 12, the police took my dad away in a patrol car because he was hallucinating and thought someone was after him and me. He said had a gun. I went to school the next day and didn’t tell anyone what happened. Today, I know that if I was afraid and ashamed to talk, to tell…that there are so many other young people who are going through tough times and are afraid or ashamed like I was. Our stories are different, but the feelings we have are very similar.
Advocating for myself, for others and empowering young people and their parents to advocate for themselves is what I have done since finding my voice many years ago. Overcoming adversity, being the first in my family to graduate from college with my master’s and bachelor’s degrees, and life experience has helped me find my voice over time. My work at Youth In Need is very important to me. I can use what I have learned and experienced to help young people find their voices, too.”