|At 16-years-old, Laurisa Butler arrived in Iowa City with her two-week-old child, scared and unsure of where life would take her. She had left her home in Chicago in May 2007 to be closer to her daughter’s father, but decided while staying with him that she wanted a different and better way of living.
In an effort to improve her living situation, Butler enrolled in United Action for Youth’s Transitional Living Program (TLP), which provides housing for homeless young families in the community and teaches them critical independent living and self-sufficiency skills.
The TLP ennabled Butler to move in to a house shared with other girls facing similar situations.
“I was nervous, but at the same time, OK with moving into a house with girls very close to my age,” she said.
Participants of TLP meet individually with a program advocate every week to develop independent living skills. They are guided through a process of setting and achieving self-sufficiency goals.
Butler said she quickly learned how to make her rent payments and become more responsible in her school work at Tate High School. As her daughter grew older and required more belongings, she learned how to budget her finances, and received parenting advice. Butler was also taught how to approach job and apartment searches, and what to look for in a good daycare.
On top of her daily responsibilities, Butler continued to writepoetry. United Action for Youth encouraged her to pursue this creative outlet. UAY prides itself on giving youth ages 12-18 a place to express themselves creatively, and give back to the community. The Youth Center on Iowa Avenue serves as a place for teenagers in the community to improve their creative skills, by providing a recording studio, writing lessons, and an art studio.
“I became a better parent and young adult,” she said. “I kept writing my poetry and stayed as strong as best I could. Whether it was learning how to use the public bus system or simple problem solving for my every day life, I was helped in so many ways from United Action for Youth’s staff. Although there were some barriers in my life, there was always a way around it, and even if it took me longer, I knew with the help I had, I’d get there.”
United Action for Youth staff and Tate High School Principal Stephanie Phillips encouraged Butler to go into Job Corps, the nation’s largest federally funded job training and education program for economically disadvantaged youth ages 16 to 24. Butler,now 18,is going through that program in Dennison, Iowa, working to become a Certified Nursing Assistant and receive her high school diploma.
Butler now lives with her daughter in an apartment-style dorm for people in the Job Corps program. The program provides her with free daycare in the same building. She said she is happy with where her life is going, especially knowing Job Corps will be there to help her after program completion. Butler said she plans to further her education in order to become a registered nurse.
“United Action for Youth helped change my life. It’s a great program for young teens who are in bad living situations and actually want to work to get a little farther in life.”
Butler has said she is thankful for the help and encouragement from United Action for Youth staff for providing her assistance while she was facing hard times as a young mother.