NV Youth Empowerment Project Helps Youth Become Successful

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RENO, Nev. -- Last week, the homeless teen count in Reno landed at 55 this year, but how does the Nevada Youth Empowerment Project help them transition to becoming successful?

Nineteen-year-old Miesha Mack never had a parental figure to look up to.

"Being a single mother of seven was hard finding work," Mack said. "She was never really there. She's not the best mother, but she was our mother."

So without any goals or someone to lead her onto the right path, she started acting out in school and got into some trouble.

"I would get suspended for two days, come back for two weeks of being the good girl, two weeks later I would get suspended again, so it was like nothing was really happening cause I would fight all the time," she said. "Fighting was how I let my anger and my aggression out."

Miesha and her siblings ended up in foster care, separated from each other.

"The stories I heard of being in foster care, you get raped, killed and stuff like that so I'm like now my guard is up," she said.

Her foster parents pushed her to finish finish school and to stay busy to keep her out of trouble.

"I had like awesome teachers, I made some awesome friends and I was like in so many clubs it's like ridiculous, so I don't know, something just switched in my brain that I needed to change so I did."

When she was old enough to leave foster care, the Nevada Youth Empowerment project led her to the Transitional Supportive Housing Program, where she learned to live on her own successfully.

"It's not reasonable to be approaching youth with mentoring and educational opportunities unless they have their basic needs met, which is a roof over their head, food in their belly and clothes on their back," Monica Dupea, NYEP Executive Director said.

The girls living here are taught responsibility from learning how to keep a budget, meeting curfew and landing a job.

"In their mind independence is freedom, but with freedom comes responsibility. It's more of a holistic program where we've identified over the last five years what kind of training needs to be taught and to be enforced and what employers are looking for and we try to do that on a basic level here," Dupea said.

Miesha never thought she'd graduate, let alone be back in a classroom. Her dream is to become a high school history teacher.

"Thinking back on freshman year...I would never work here like I would have never been a school teacher and never work with kids," Mack said.

She is currently a volunteer at the Discovery Museum, working part-time and will be attending TMCC as a history major in the fall.

NYEP is working on expanding the program and finding funds to house more youth in transition.