14 Sep Success Story: Latasha

Youth Opportunity Center staff work hard to provide residents with opportunities to express themselves in a variety of ways and also to pursue their hobbies. Latasha,* a resident at the YOC, recently won the Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day Art Exhibition for her painting titled, “I Want Both.” The evaluation team considered a combination of artistic merit and how well the piece represented the theme of standing up for your mental wellness. Latasha stated that the painting compares her previous drug use to the life she wants for herself. It shows how she wants more for her life and to make herself happy instead of finding happiness in drugs. In each picture, there is an angel and a devil on her shoulders. In the first picture, they hold equal weight, but in the second picture, she flicks the devil off of her shoulders because she can now make her own decisions.

Art pictured: “I Want Both”, Winning Exhibit at Children’s Mental Health Awareness Day Art Exhibition

At only 14 years old, Latasha and her family have experienced more than their fair share of hardships. After the death of her father when Latasha was only three months old, her mom ended up in an abusive relationship. Latasha attended 9 different schools and was bullied in 5th grade. Latasha began using drugs as a way to cope and escape her life. Her mindset was that she had already done so many bad things, and hurt so many people, that there was no point in trying to get better.

When she first arrived at the YOC, Latasha and her mom did not know how to talk to each other, or work through their problems. Latasha admits that she was so focused on her own pain, she didn’t realize her mom was hurting too. Through family counseling, they have been able to actually hear each other and move forward.

Latasha realizes now she has a mom who loves her and she wants to be a role model for her little brothers. She now wants to live a full life instead of a life she doesn’t care about.

YOC staff say that the family change has been huge. Latasha’s mom has been actively pursuing change as well, and is invested in the family counseling.

While Latasha and her mom haven’t been able to meet in person since early March due to COVID-19, they are able to hold family counseling sessions via video conferencing. Latasha is glad she can still connect with her mom in that way. Despite having no transcripts from 7th grade, Latasha has caught up completely and will start 8th grade this fall. She wants to attend Indiana University or Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis to ultimately work in a hospital doing research and helping people. She loves nature and has started a recycling program at the YOC to help eliminate waste. She has also been working with a YOC staff member to continue learning gymnastics while the local gyms are closed.

Latasha’s story shows how resilient the youth at the YOC are. They experience a multitude of emotions, possess various talents, and dream big dreams. With the support of the staff, many are able to overcome life’s obstacles to accomplish whatever they set out to do – including winning art competitions.

*Names have been removed to protect the identity of the resident.

To support our services for trafficking survivors like Latasha, go to alliesforhope.com.

This story is adapted from the Summer 2020 YOC Foundations newsletter.