On May 17, in Washington, DC, the Housing and Insurance Subcommittee of the House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee held a hearing about H.R. 1661, the “Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2017.” Columbus was well represented at the hearing by Ann Bischoff, CEO of Star House. At the invitation of Congressman Steve Stivers, Huckleberry House executive director Becky Westerfelt submitted a letter of testimony to the hearing. The text of Becky’s letter follows. It focuses on one part of the bill that would positively affect Huck House youth: student occupancy rules. Should the bill become law, youth will no longer have to choose between thriving or merely getting by. Read more
Ashley and her husband both have disabilities, so they knew planning for parenthood would take extra consideration. They have learned some valuable lessons and tips in their preparation for parenthood. They now have two amazing kids and maintain a website to help other disabled parents.
Many of the young people who come to Huck House have children of their own and Ashley’s blog below goes through some good questions to ask any soon-to-be parent.
The end of the school year can be an overwhelming time for many high school students. Unfortunately, it can also be difficult for many young people to recognize and articulate when they are feeling stressed. Rather than saying “I feel stressed” your child might say “I have a stomachache” or “I’m not sleeping at night.” Some teens may become irritable, impatient, angry, or even aggressive when they are feeling stressed. Others may become anxious, scared, or panicky. As a parent, paying attention to the signs and symptoms of stress can help you recognize and help your child if he or she is struggling. Read more
Meet Huck House Youth Award Winner, Brittney Evans.
Brittney was adjudicated from the age of 16 to 20. When her adjudication ended, Brittney had some serious life goals. One she achieved quickly was earning her GED within six months of being released. One she is still working on is regaining custody of her son who was ten weeks old when her adjudication began. She worked hard and met all the requirements of Huck House’s Transitional Living Program – always working, saving money, staying on top of her custody fight. And she quit smoking!
Brittney graduated and moved out of TLP on the day her second son was born. She now has new goals. In one year, she wants to be ready for her newborn’s needs as he enters toddlerhood, renew her lease, and be ready for Christmas. In five years, she hopes to have a deposit for a house and be in school for social work. “I really want to work with kids from where I came from – either at Huck House or in the juvenile justice system – so I can help them get to a better life.” For now, she is working for temp services to get back to work after her baby’s birth. Finding a job and a child care center that will make it easy for her to continue to breastfeed for one year is a priority.
When asked when she feels strongest, Brittney says, “every time I have to leave my oldest son after a visit because I want to bring him home with me.” When asked how she finds the strength to get through those hardest moments, she answers, “I find my strength knowing in my heart that it will happen someday.”
Meet Huck House Youth Award Winner, Ivan Vargas.
Besides being a well-mannered, respectful, hardworking student, Ivan is a model for true perseverance. Three days after his eighteenth birthday, Ivan was arrested for taking a joy ride on a grocery cart scooter. Ivan was booked with a felony charge and encouraged by his public defender to plea out and serve jail time. Ivan did not graduate from high school with his peers. Today, he is on track to graduate in the spring while working full-time at the Spaghetti Warehouse. Although the felony will keep him from joining the military, a life-long dream, Ivan plans to become an auto mechanic. Ivan is unique because he owns his mistakes, blames no one, and takes full responsibility for creating a better life for himself.
Meet Huck House Youth Award Winner, Tekia Farmer.
Tekia is a high school senior who is exceptional both in and out of the classroom, but she had to overcome a few struggles to get there. As an underclassman at Walnut Ridge, she struggled with grades and had 10 behavior incidences. Now, Tekia has barely had any run-ins with the disciplinary system at school and has started the year with well above a 3.0 GPA. She is on track to receive her diploma in June 2018. Aside from her academic and behavioral improvements, she is very active in her community and has accumulated over 300 hours of community service.
Tekia welcomed a daughter in March 2018 and only missed five school days this year, despite doctors’ appointments and nausea that comes with being pregnant. Tekia’s goals are to enroll into Columbus State in the fall and become a social worker for juveniles. Tekia Farmer’s future looks bright and her daughter has a strong female role model to look up to.
Meet Huck House Youth Award Winner, Roxanne Johnson.
Roxanne has faced several challenges, including teen pregnancy, mental health issues and one of her biggest challenges, a custody battle with her mother over Roxanne’s daughter. Her cousin recommended she go to Huck House, where she found shelter support at the Crisis Shelter. Roxanne has since completed the Huck House Transitional Living Program and moved into a new apartment. Although saddened that she is unable to see her support system from TLP as often, she is very thankful for her ongoing relationship with Tyia and Kenosha.
Her daughter is her motivation and Roxanne plans to tell her, “No matter what life throws at you, don’t give up.” She also wants to stress the importance of staying focused in school and avoiding outside distractions. Roxanne’s long-term goals are to get back into working, enroll part-time in school, and get a car
Meet Huck House Youth Award Winner, Kamaury Baskin.
High school can be stressful and isolating, especially for an African-American transgender teenager. As an 8th grade, male student, KaMaury had 27 behavior incidents, and several more in the first years of high school, but as a senior, she has learned to love, trust and believe in herself. Her behavior, attitude and self-confidence have improved tremendously.
KaMaury gets her courage from knowing who she is and not letting anything get her down. Fighting and overcoming adversity in the last couple of years has made her want to keep moving forward and keep a positive attitude. Upon graduation from high school this May, KaMaury wants to get a job and start saving up money so that she can move to California, where she loves the lifestyle and weather. In California, she wants to become a life coach so that she can give back and help other people. KaMaury also wants to write a book, so others can learn from her story.
Although she is not a life coach yet, she has plenty of advice to give to those who may be in a similar situation, “Keep your head up, it’s going to get better and everything happens for a reason.”
Meet Huck House Youth Award Winner, Pasha Rivers-Johnson.
In the past year, Pasha has faced many barriers but overcome them to reach her goals. Before entering TLP, Pasha gave birth to twins and left an abusive relationship with their father. The abuse also resulted in Pasha leaving college saddled with student loans. Despite being a victim of domestic violence, Pasha remains a kind, caring, respectful and dedicated student and mother. In the fall 2017, Pasha began taking classes at Ohio Dominican University and joined the track and field team. She hopes to become a special education teacher. Pasha has earned the admiration of her peers and counselors because she advocates for herself and other victims of abuse.
Meet Huck House Youth Award Winner, Jhanel McCray.
Jhanel left a violent relationship with her child’s father and has been raising her 2 year old daughter on her own with very little help from friends or family. Jhanel set out to utilize Huck House’s Transitional Living Program to get financially stable, graduate high school, find stable employment and housing while mastering independent living skills so she can live on her own successfully.
Jhanel has made great strides towards her goals. She recently graduated from the Academy for Urban Scholars. She has been steadily employed and has been able to save money to buy a car and increase her savings. Jhanel values employment. Recently, when leaving one job for another, she respectfully gave two weeks’ notice, knowing how important it is to maintain a reputation as a good employee.
Jhanel is positive, outgoing, motivated, hardworking, and a leader amongst her peers. Jhanel hopes to move to her own apartment in the next few months. There is no doubt that Jhanel will continue being successful and will reach whatever goal she sets for herself.