Youth, young adults, and alumni with lived experience have the wisdom and expertise we need to develop effective solutions to youth and young adult homelessness. Sunshine is a lived experience expert working with our Anchor Community Team in Yakima, and this is her story of why she advocates for young people.
My past has influenced my future so much. It has also had a significant impact on how I define family. When I was growing up, I didn’t have the guidance and structure I needed to make positive choices. I grew up in the foster care system and was moved around a lot. I was adopted at the age of 6 ½, and by that time, I had lost a lot of trust in people.
I had lost the will to live and move forward at an early age. I felt as if I was worthless and “not good enough.” I began to hate everyone around me. These feelings caused me to make choices that had a significant impact on my life early on and made navigating life harder. Eventually I was sent to a juvenile detention and a residential treatment center for using drugs and alcohol.
It was at that point in my life that I began to feel listened to. When I was with my biological family and adopted family, I felt like they didn’t respect my feelings about things that were important to me. Juvenile was the first time that I felt like I had adults who listened to me. I started making better choices and I started to regain trust in people again. While in the residential treatment center program, I was able to get 3 college credits and work on life skills training. When I graduated from the program, I was ready to show the world what I learned and what I can do!
I moved to Yakima from Arizona, and this is where I was able to show who I really was. I joined leadership groups in high school and showed other students that just because your life isn’t perfect doesn’t mean you can’t make it perfect! I started to have more positive friendships and prove to myself that I could do more than what I was currently doing.
After high school, I accepted a job that I absolutely adore at Rod’s House. With this job, I am able to help the youth that comes through Rod’s House and show them that they are important and special. I am changing lives just as my life was changed and that is my passion. The best part about my job is seeing youth’s accomplishments on a day-to-day basis. I love hearing when youth achieve goals they never thought they would achieve, such as getting back into schools, reconnecting with family, and connecting with other support systems. I love helping our youth feel important and loved.
My day isn’t complete without this work because I love what I do. Whenever I come to work, I am ready to learn new techniques and skills in order to help make a difference. I want to give back to the people who have helped me. I don’t want what happened to me to happen to any other youth and that is why I am so passionate about my work. Showing our youth that we care means the world to them and it means the world to me to watch them grow and achieve so much in their own lives.
I want to give everyone a special thanks for reading my story. I am passionate about what I do and there isn’t any other job in his world I would rather have. I appreciate being able to listen to our youth and help them in any way I can. I love that I can make a difference. All in all I would say that I have gone through a big change, and other people see me differently now.