17 Jul Driven to Make a Difference

“I want to help people feel confident.”

Danielle* is heading to Young Harris College in northeast Georgia with the goal of being a dentist to do just that – build people’s confidence through their smiles. Danielle has admittedly struggled with her own self-esteem through the years and wants to make sure that others don’t have barriers to getting the smile they want. She plans to accept all payment types at her future practice, since access to affordable dental care is often prohibitive.

Danielle grew up in Northern Indiana as the youngest of five girls. Her father died when she was 7 years old and she began experiencing childhood abuse a short time after. The next 10 years were filled with difficulties that led to her running away and eventually ending up at TRU Harbor, a residential program for commercially and sexually exploited young females. While at TRU Harbor, Danielle received individual and group counseling, independent living skills programming like gardening and Serv-Safe training, and educational support. Staff drove three hours each way to bring her mom to family counseling every other week so she could be involved. This family involvement played a huge role in Danielle’s success and completion of the program.

Despite her traumatic experiences, Danielle kept her grades up at school and had positive relationships with her teachers. Most of her family went to college and taught her that education was important. Since arriving at TRU Harbor in August 2018, Danielle earned 23 credits, graduating with a total of 63 credits from her home school. She loved taking the classes online and working at her own pace, often finishing classes within just one week. Her favorite subject is math, “because of the level of thinking it requires.”

Through all of her hard work, Danielle received a 4-year $18,000 scholarship from Young Harris College with the potential for additional funds if she keeps her grades up. She will also be receiving the Youth Opportunity Center’s Anna Ullom scholarship, a renewable scholarship set up to support YOC residents seeking post-secondary education.  Danielle is looking forward to stepping out of her comfort zone and living in a small town, which is also close to extended family.

Danielle’s time at the Youth Opportunity Center taught her how to speak up for herself and brought her confidence level back up. Because the staff provided a safe, supportive environment, she was able to work through her past and set out to not only accomplish her own dreams, but to help others in the process. TRU Harbor staff have arranged for ongoing counseling services at college to help Danielle continue to work through her experiences.

Danielle’s advice? “No matter what people tell you, you can always make it through. You control your life.”

*Name changed for anonymity



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