Two airmen from the 755th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron here are on a mission to help the homeless youth of Tucson.
Airman 1st Class John Collard and Senior Airman Thomas Nguyen are working with a local nonprofit organization, “Youth On Their Own.”
This organization is a drop-out prevention program that supports the high school graduation of homeless, unaccompanied, metro Tucson and Pima County youth ages 13 through 21. Students are enrolled in public, charter, and alternative schools and are motivated to obtain their high school diplomas, despite personal and financial hardship. YOTO offers financial assistance, basic human needs and guidance as students work to obtain their high school diplomas.
Tucson and Pima County have nearly 4,000 homeless youth. Arizona has the highest percentage of kids dropping out of school in the U.S.
Last year, YOTO served more than 1,100 homeless youth and 254 seniors celebrated a 96 percent graduation rate.
Collard said that he really likes this specific organization because the proceeds immediately impact the local community’s students in need and set them up for success.
“Growing up, I knew a lot of kids that had hard living situations or didn’t have a lot of money,” said Collard. “I remember how it affected them in school and think this is a good opportunity to change that especially since we have the means.”
Once Collard found this organization, he wanted to get more people involved and called upon Nguyen to assist.
“I think this, also, is important to Collard to create a squadron and unit cohesion tool,” said Nguyen. “It can allow the squadron to gel better, enhance the morale within the unit and base and create more of a team-centric idea that combines minds and hearts together by supporting this great cause.”
Nguyen believes that getting these students to graduate helps make them more productive members of society.
A back-to-school challenge called Stuff a Backpack Program is being held by YOTO with a goal of collecting a thousand backpacks filled with school supplies. This challenge started July 1 and will run until October 1.
A stuffed backpack includes a new adult-sized backpack stuffed with the following:
- two to three packs of college-rule loose-leaf paper
- three to five college-rule notebooks
- three to five folders
- two packs of pencils
- two packs of pens
- hand sanitizer
Collard and Nguyen have set a base-wide goal of 100 stuffed backpacks and look to contribute at least 20 from their squadron alone.
Monetary contributions are also accepted.
For more information or to volunteer, contact Collard at 707-951-3334 or Nguyen at 321-223-2828. More information can also be found at www.yoto.org.