When Dante’s foster mother Diane was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease and taken to live in a nursing home, he was abruptly placed with an unfamiliar foster family. Unable to cope with the abuse he suffered in his new family and missing the stability of Diane’s home, he ran away. During this traumatic time he began selling drugs and moving closer to the violence of urban street life.
Dante was continuing on this path when he found himself living temporarily at YSI’s Youth Emergency Service (YES) teen shelter. Since arriving, he has formed close relationships with the program’s staff members, who have helped him to reflect on his life and make good decisions. “A talk that I had with Mr. Clarke and Mr. Johnson led me to leave the streets and change my life around,” Dante remembers. “[If I hadn’t come to YES] I’d still be out there selling drugs. Being at YES makes me want to do good in life.”
Though Dante faces significant challenges ahead, he is committed to following a positive life path and is hopeful about his future. Supported by a group of adult siblings and close friends, he wants to find a caring foster family and re-enroll in high school; he imagines a career as a professional football player, a nurse, or maybe a veterinarian.
Reflecting on his experience at YES, he says “people should support this program to give teenagers a chance, so that they can see that there’s more to life than the streets and violence.” For Dante, a resilient teenager who has already faced violence in the streets and at home, that chance could be a crucial step towards a happy, fulfilling adult life.