Today, Melissa is in college, studying for a career in criminal justice, where she hopes to be able to help young people who’ve led troubled lives.

“She’s the very definition of a successful young woman,” says Heather Thompson, who was her counselor at Youth Villages Oregon.

It wasn’t always that way.

Emotional and behavioral problems brought Melissa to Youth Villages for help when she was only 8 years old. By 16, she was estranged from her family and back with Youth Villages Oregon. She was angry, depressed, and she struggled with significant behavioral challenges.

Things began to change for Melissa when she was accepted at a Youth Villages Oregon group home in Oregon City, which helps young people who need support as they transition toward independent adulthood.

The young woman began to identify her goals and work to complete them. There was a lot of work to do.

“I hadn’t finished high school. I didn’t have a job,” she said. “I was really depressed, I guess.”

Heather worked with Melissa to support her as she worked to meet her goals.

“We focused on getting her through high school, helping her find her first job and, after that, register for community college,” Heather said.

Together they looked at apartment listings and helped Melissa budget for and then choose her first apartment. Melissa participated in the Holiday Heroes program, a philanthropic initiative that allows donors to fill wish lists for children and young adults receiving help through Youth Villages Oregon. Melissa put items for her first apartment on her wish list that was filled by volunteers and donors. Staff were able to help Melissa choose an apartment and furnish it through our partnership with The Community Warehouse.

The young woman rekindled her relationship with her family and now works in the family’s business and has the support she needs.
“I was able to see her grow up, overcome her challenges and defy the odds,” Heather says. “Now, Melissa’s an independent adult who really understands the world and what she needs to do to be successful. She’s the most resilient person, I’ve ever known.”

Sometime, Melissa stops in to see the staff and talk to the young people now living at the group home.

She has a message for them: “Don’t ever stop trying,” she says. “Keep putting in the effort. Don’t ever give up.”