I finally felt the courage to speak up during family planning meetings and decide what would come next in my life.

Two years ago, I was in a bad place in my life and was at risk of being separated from my family. Staff at my school referred me to The Sanctuary at The Children’s Village. At first, I was very skeptical about it helping me, but when I got there it was a different story. I was shy and going through a lot with my family relationships – I was full of pent-up anger. The staff welcomed me with open arms and stepped up for me. They became the family that I didn’t have at the time! We talked and worked through difficult situations involving my mental health. They encouraged me to be a better person, and I started to feel a huge change. I learned to become an advocate for myself and my peers. I finally felt the courage to speak up during family planning meetings and decide what would come next in my life.

I quickly realized that I didn’t want to leave this safe space just yet. So, I signed up to be a Youth Advocate at The Sanctuary and join CV’s Youth Advisory Council. Now, I help plan trips and events about sexual education and mental health, and I also work with young people that were in my situation a few months prior. I am grateful that I can be seen as an older sister, a friend, a mentor, or someone to ask questions to. I have been exposed to so many opportunities like speaking at the International Women’s Day Presentation, attending the WAY awards dinner with Ms. Watford, and I also received a certificate for my achievements at The Sanctuary Family and Friends Day. My favorite trip was a hike up Mohawk Mountain. It was so nice to get out of my neighborhood and try something new. The climb was so hard that I actually fell! But even though there were things in our way, once we got to the top it was all worth it and the view was amazing. By the end of the trip, we all had such a strong bond. I’m currently in high school and getting ready to graduate, and I’m thinking of applying for full-time jobs at CV! I think I would be a great staff member. I want to continue to make sure I am successful now and in the future.

Sarah resided at The Sanctuary, Westchester County’s only homeless shelter specifically for teens. The Sanctuary provides a safe place to stay, individual and group counseling, family-style meals, and life coaching for youth returning to their communities. It supports teens who should not be living on the street, couch surfing, forced to enter a shelter, or trading their bodies for food or housing.

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