How Hope Transformed This Youth's Outlook On College

Number of Children... 1

Ended Homelessness... March 2016

Before Maya found hope, the single mother and her 13-year-old son Jackson struggled with homelessness, doubling and even tripling up with family members. The young homeschooled student showed a lack of interest in attending college. Now, with a roof over their heads and educational support, their lives have drastically transformed.   

Chronic health issues and a back injury made all areas of life extremely difficult for Maya, including work. She was placed on disability, and when her apartment rent increased, she could no longer afford to stay in her home. Waving goodbye to the life she had built with her son, Maya and Jackson moved into her parents' home, where other family members also resided. The space and privacy they once cherished were gone. But they never lost hope.


Orange County's cost of living is 85% higher than the national average, and its cost of housing is an estimated 347% higher than the national average. To afford a median-priced one-bedroom unit in Orange County, a worker must make $25.46 per hour, or $52,960 per year. A minimum-wage worker making the $10 per hour minimum wage in Orange County must work 102 hours per week to afford said unit. In summation, according to the 2016 Orange County Community Indicators Report, "rent remains unaffordable for low-wage households despite minimum wage increases."


Maya met with Chrissie, one of our dedicated case managers, to share her story. Together, they developed an actionable plan to help lift the family out of homelessness. Through our Family Stability Program, we were able to rapidly rehouse them in March 2016. To help furnish the family's new home, we connected Maya with the Salvation Army, and our extraordinary community donors also stepped in to help. Recently, we were able to help further furnish their home.

Thank you, Chrissie! Please thank the person who donated the furniture. I love every piece. Please tell them I really appreciate the donation. It has made my place feel like a cozy home.

Safely and happily rehoused, Maya and Jackson felt the weight of enduring stress lift from their shoulders. Finally moved into their own home, they could focus on moving forward. 

To heal emotionally, they participated in an Art4Healing workshop, a therapeutic youth program designed to promote creative expression in a stress-free environment. 

Overwhelmingly invested in providing her son with the best education possible, Maya worked with Chrissie to identify a pathway to his academic success. We helped enroll Jackson in high school and connect him with free tutoring services through School on Wheels, a partner organization that pairs each child with a dedicated volunteer tutor who works one-on-one with the young learner every week. The goal is to shrink academic gaps and provide the highest level of educational support possible. 

Jackson also attended an event hosted by UCI's School on Wheels, where he toured the campus, played basketball with the university team, watched performances by the UCI dance teams, ate in the college cafeteria, and more. He enjoyed his experience so much, Maya rushed to tell Chrissie that the visit completely changed her son's outlook on college. Prior to his visit, Jackson never regarded college as an option or desirable path. However, the tour opened his eyes to a future filled with endless potential and possibility. The now 14-year-old high school student is excited for college.

Thank you, Chrissie! Jackson had a great time! He really enjoyed UCI, and it got him excited about college. I can’t thank you enough for inviting him to this great event. We had a nice quiet weekend.

In May, Maya joined other mothers we serve at our office for a special Mother's Day celebration. Moms enjoyed lunch, an inspiring conversation with Every Monday Matters—one of our Bright Start Program partners—and a jewelry-making workshop led by Suzan Zahedi of Studio SUZAN. While sharing stories with and providing supporting to other mothers, Maya handcrafted "HOPE" bracelets—one for herself and another to gift to a mother of a child undergoing treatment at Children's Hospital of Orange County (CHOC).

Earlier this summer, the committed family joined Team Kid and other families we serve for UCI's annual New Swan Shakespeare Festival, where we enjoyed dinner together and a special pre-opening showing of one of the great’s famous plays.

I am so grateful to all at Project Hope Alliance.
My son and I have peace in our lives thanks to you all and this great organization. Forever grateful.

Maya continues to battle disabling health issues, and we remain committed to walking alongside this hardworking family on their journey, offering guidance and support every step of the way.