From Homeless Teen to College Graduate

convocationIf you have been around long enough at OIM, you are likely aware of the story of ‘Samantha’ (not her real name). Samantha was the first youth to walk through the doors of our ‘Passion 4 Youth Fine Arts Program’ in 2009. She was a creative, friendly, big-hearted girl who had been given a hard shove into the brutal realities of homelessness while still in high school. We first featured her story in the October 2009 issue of our newsletter. Here is a part of that story

My Early Years

I was beaten as a child by multiple family members. I don’t know why. At age fifteen, I decided to leave. Later, my stepdad invited me to live with him; a fresh start. It wasn’t long before his new family decided they did not want me anymore.  They took me to the YMCA, dropped me off with bags packed. I was in grade12, so I lost my year. I lost my family. I lost everything.

 Homeless

I couldn’t stay at the shelter during the day so I went to different churches.  I liked to sit in front of the statues of Jesus and sleep. No-one woke me up. They thought I was praying.  I was handing out resumes, trying to get a job, but got nothing. I was all alone. I got depressed.

 The Art Program

I heard about the art program and called to see if I could join. I didn’t know if they would like me or my art. I was really nervous. OIM told me it wasn’t about artistic talent, but becoming a part of a group where I could develop and grow. It was new & different. I was accepted—just as I was. I was able to write and draw and that has really helped me…

Samantha has come a long, long way since those early days. She has an apartment, a job, and a supportive circle of friends. She could have gone the way of so many others with similarly tragic stories. She could have gone from homeless teen to homeless adult. But she didn’t. She could have turned to drugs or alcohol to numb the pain. But she didn’t.  And if she had, who could blame her? She has had to endure so much in her young life. In spite of everything, she has never lost her consideration for others nor her wide-eyed hope for what life could be.

In fact, just last week, I had the privilege of attending Samantha’s convocation ceremony where she joined Algonquin College’s Class of 2014! I was so proud of her as she walked across the stage to accept her diploma in the College’s Animation Program (hooting and hollering as I did along with her friends in the ‘nose-bleed’ section of the Canadian Tire Centre). We were all SO proud of her achievements and accomplishments! 

Congratulations Samantha! You are an inspiration to us all!

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