Anthony Ross was homeless at age 13, and now he's headed to law school. He credits a youth worker at Sasha Bruce House for helping him see his own potential.
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NCFY: Welcome to Youth Speak Out, a podcast series from the Family and Youth Services Bureau. At age thirteen, Anthony Ross was living on the street in Washington, D.C. after a violent episode at home. Almost ten years later, he’s about to start law school and has ambitions for political office. He credits this turnaround to George Montgomery, a youth worker at the Sasha Bruce House. Anthony knows firsthand of the permanent connections with caring adults like Mr. Montgomery can give young people a must needed sense that they matter.
ANTHONY ROSS: Mr. George was always there if we needed to talk to him. He always sat on the couch, you know. And he always was able to listen and give us advice. So those are the two best qualities that he has. I told him that I wanted to go to college. And he was basically like, well, you know, I see it in you. You've got the potential. What colleges are you looking at, you know?
So he was there with me during the process. And once I told him to list the colleges I was looking at and things like that, he was in support of me. Mr. George actually drove me to go see the school in North Carolina. He took me on the tour at the college and it was amazing, man. It was like as soon as I stepped out of the car, I felt like I was walking into a dream. And I was touching the concrete walls. And I was like, oh man. I don't ever want to leave this dream.
I’ve been in contact with Mr. George for – ever since I left the homeless shelter to attend college. And he actually was able to make a trip down for my graduation. So ever since I moved into the transitional program, it seems like the vibe never left. And that's a great thing that Sasha Bruce imposes on people, that once you’re in the program, they build relationships with the homeless teenager and remain in their lives. Because at the end of the day, they know that we didn’t go through anything positive coming up and that we needed the support.
NCFY: Even in a relatively safe shelter setting, young people might be reluctant to startup new relationships. Anthony says a consistent presence will lead the way to long-term connections.
ANTHONY ROSS: It’s not going to happen straight out the gate. It’s going to take some time to get used to. I remember me, my first time even enrolling into the program at the shelter, it was like, oh, my goodness. I didn’t know none of these people. And it felt really awkward and uncomfortable sleeping in a bed with like complete strangers. But at the same time, you go in every day. You leave. You take a shower. You go to work. You go back in the homeless shelter and you start all over again the next day. By that happening, day-by-day, you were able to build relationships.
If I was going through something at the GED program or had a long day at work, I would have been able to sit down and talk to Mr. Montgomery about what went on. And that helped to increase the bond. That helped to solidify our relationship even more.
NCFY: Important as these relationships are, Anthony says they’re largely a matter of the adult letting the young person set the pace that they need to feel comfortable.
ANTHONY ROSS: Some children are just stubborn and they feel that since you're not family that the respect level is going to be different. So it’s basically just making sure that they feel comfortable. You know, you don’t want to rush anything or force anything upon nobody as a social worker and an employee. But instead, the relationship build over time. And when a child is ready, then they’ll come forth.
NCFY: To learn more about the importance of permanent connections for at-risk youth, visit the National Clearinghouse on Families and Youth, online at NCFY.acf.hhs.gov.
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