Ellbogen Initiatives Fund at WYCF

From our Fall 2020 Newsletter. See the full newsletter (PDF) here.

t’s easy to judge a person or situation when you are on the outside looking in. We may not want to admit it, but we’ve all done it.

For Tamara Moore, Executive Director of the Unaccompanied Students Initiative (USI), she wants people to know there is more to the homeless youth they serve than what you see.

“In a roundabout way, people often wonder or ask, how did these youth end up here? What’s wrong with them or their parents?” says Tamara. “It’s not their fault that they found themselves in this situation. Their parents or guardians could be deceased, incarcerated, or moved and abandoned.”

USI has staff and volunteers who work to provide safe and stable housing for high school students ages 16 and up in Laramie and Natrona County. These youth find themselves in unsafe or temporary living situations, and the Unaccompanied Students Initiative provides them a home, warm bed, and security they are looking for.

The outside picture is that USI is just a facility or a program. “We are not just a facility,” says Tamara. “We provide a real home, life skills, mentorship and assistance toward completing their educational goals and becoming a productive member of society.”

Some students come to live at USI and are worried they are behind. “I’m too old to finish,” “Can I even do this?” Tamara hears a lot. There are GED and other degree programs available for the youth at USI. “They are shocked at what they can accomplish.”

The Unaccompanied Students Initiative focuses on making sure students they work with graduate from high school. When the pandemic hit, staff found many of their needs increased.

Overtime in Tough Times

“Our staff was working overtime and we needed more supplies and technology for the youth,” says Tamara. Because of the quarantine, all of the learning shifted online. “It’s important for the success of the student’s education they had their own space and computers to learn on.”

Staff also needed more supplies on hand which was hard to find. “We needed thermometers, masks, cleaning supplies, and food…the youth being home more often created this be in the kitchen all the time eating everything idea,” she laughed.

Thanks to the support of the Ellbogen Initiatives Fund, USI was able to make sure these important needs were met. Now these students, who are already experiencing hardships, have the tools they need to succeed.

Tamara knows youth they work with just want to be heard. “They don’t want to be a poster child for people experiencing homelessness; they want stability.”

“Our youth are so excited to get back to school in the Fall,” says Tamara.