Meet Douglas, SAY Youth Alumni
“I didn’t really know what I wanted to do with my life other than getting through and surviving.”
When Douglas first came to Tamayo Village, SAY’s long-term housing program in Santa Rosa, he had no idea that he would later become an Electronics Technician Second Class in the United States Navy. Douglas heard through word of mouth that SAY offered housing programs for youth who wanted to work on becoming self-sufficient. At the time, Douglas was in the process of exiting the foster care system and wasn’t totally sure what to expect, but when he arrived at Tamayo Village he realized it was a unique place. “The staff is really there for the youth’s benefit. They aren’t there to ‘call the cops’ on you; they come from a place of compassion and want to help you find solutions,” Douglas recalls.
“When I came to Tamayo Village I had never really been to a real high school before and that was something I wanted to experience.” Douglas yearned to be able to play football and attend classes, but he was worried that he would not be able to handle a full-time job alongside school. “I went to Dot [SAY’s housing director] my second day at Tamayo and told her about my situation. That’s when she connected me with a youth advocate at the JC.”
Douglas decided to heed the advice of the staff and complete an ATB (Ability to Benefit Test) at Santa Rosa Junior College. “I scored in the 99th percentile and started school on September 2nd” he said. After working and attending school for a little over a year, Douglas was able to move out of Tamayo Village and down to San Diego where his sister was living.
After receiving his diploma in San Diego, Douglas chose to join the Navy and was offered the opportunity to participate in the Advanced Electronics Computer Field (AECF) program. “On May 5th I joined the Navy. May 6th I left for boot camp and have been in the Navy ever since.”
“I was definitely prepared to join the Navy” he stated after describing how he learned to coexist with other youth at Tamayo Village. “You have to learn to get along with lots of different people in pretty close quarters.” Douglas credits the staff at SAY for always reminding him about those basic tools that one must have in order to become self-sufficient. This includes everything from having a driver’s license and a permanent address, to learning to live with those from different backgrounds.
Looking back almost 10 years later, Douglas is grateful for the support he received at SAY: “At risk youth are somewhat at a disadvantage to other groups of youth who have more stability throughout their lives. SAY’s program gives kids who come from different socioeconomic backgrounds the ability to succeed. That’s why this particular organization works.”
Today, Douglas is still proudly serving in the Navy and is based in San Diego. Through hard work, perseverance, and a little support from caring adults, Douglas forged his path to success. SAY is honored to be part of his incredible story.