Life on His Own

Dakota’s impressive transition into adulthood.

When Dakota first came to the Independent Living program at Volunteers of America in April of 2021, he was struggling to live on his own. He had turned 18 in December, and was excited to finally be out of the custody of the Department of Family Services.

But life on his own was not everything he had dreamed it to be. He completed a Job Corps program in warehousing, but soon came to realize that he would need help learning how to live independently and become a sustainable adult. He did not know how to find a job, open a bank account, or even how to buy groceries. The only food he could prepare for himself was microwaveable and of low nutritious value. He did not know how to use public transportation and could not afford any other way of getting around.

When he came to Volunteers of America for help, his case manager immediately set to work. Together, they created a plan that would help Dakota gain the necessary skills and set him up for success.

The first step was for Dakota to voluntarily sign himself back into Department of Family Services custody, qualifying him for more services and funding. He took this opportunity very seriously, and committed to a plan that would help him transition successfully into adulthood.

Then, they got him placed in one of our transitional apartments for youth in his situation. Rent at these apartments is determined by income and includes intensive case management, making them a perfect fit for youth who, like Dakota, reach the age of legal adulthood without the skills required to be an adult.

Two short months later, Dakota had his own checking and savings account. He had a job that lined up perfectly with the Job Corps training he had received. He was confident using public transportation and going to the grocery store on his own. He even worked with his case manager to find a new recipe each week, which they would cook together so he could learn to prepare nutritious meals for himself.

With these basics covered, Dakota set a big goal for himself; to save enough money to buy a car.

In January of 2022, just nine months after coming to the Independent Living program and a little over a year since the 18th birthday that found him so underprepared for adulthood, Dakota made his dream a reality.

Most of the money came from his hard-earned savings and, with a little financial support from VOA and encouragement from his case manager, Dakota purchased himself a car.

Dakota has come a long way from the person who first walked through our doors. He now has a job and a bank account, can purchase and prepare nutritious meals for himself, and is the proud owner of his first car. More importantly, he has learned how to set goals and work towards them with tenacity.

Together with his case manager, Dakota has set his next big goal; to move out of the transitional apartment and into a place of his own. We cannot wait to see what the future holds for this inspiring and determined young man. With the life skills he needs to be a successful adult, we have no doubt that he will create a life he is proud of.

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