Preparing for independence
In many ways, James is a typical teen who excels in school and has big plans for his future. He spends his time shooting hoops with his friends and giving back to the community.
You’d never know most of his life has been dominated by uncertainty, instability, loneliness and fear.
To this day, James has never met his biological father. His birth mother – currently serving a 25-years-to-life sentence – was a drug addict when James was born. From the beginning, he was raised by his aunt and uncle.
By the time James was 12, his aunt and uncle divorced. He left all he knew in New York to move to Florida with his sister, his aunt and her boyfriend.
It wasn’t long before James began drinking, smoking and heading down a dark path.
Amidst the turmoil, his living situation grew increasingly tragic. His aunt was evicted. Overnight, his family became homeless. They bounced around more than 20 times, couch surfing, hotel and motel hopping, even sleeping on park benches and in abandoned cars. Eventually,
he dropped out of school.
James’ turning point came during conversations with his older brother, who recently served a 10-year prison sentence. His brother encouraged
him to go back to school and get his diploma.
“I realized that if I kept doing what I was doing, I was going to end up in jail just like he had,” James explains. “I knew the person I had become wasn’t who I wanted to be … all I wanted was a second chance.”
He’s found that chance with Children’s Home Society of Florida.
We help him set and reach goals while planning for the future. He knows he’s not alone. And since he has a safe, stable place to live, he can focus on his education. He’s even taking college courses while still in high school and plans to apply to culinary school.
But James sees more than a culinary career in his future; he wants to give back to the community, just as Children’s Home Society of Florida has given so much to him.
“When I was homeless, I didn’t think there were any services or people to help me,” he says. “I just know what it’s like for these kids. I want to teach them they can overcome anything and achieve success if they want to.”