Nothing can stop nineteen-year-old Meagan Higginson from living her dreams—not even a disruption to her education, living with a disability, or ongoing housing, employment and financial challenges.
Although the road hasn’t been easy, Meagan is learning the vital skills she needs to face the future with hope and confidence, thanks to support she has received from the Burnside Gorge Community Association’s Youth Self-Sufficiency Program.
The Victoria-based program is aimed at providing life transition and independent living skills to youth between the ages of 17 and 21 who have been in foster care, on a youth agreement, or who are otherwise living without adult supports. The initiative is funded solely through contributions from organizations like Coast Capital Savings, which invested $25,000 into the Youth Self-Sufficiency Program last year.
“Being involved in the program has brought more stability to my life and allowed me to continue working on goals that I couldn’t manage before,” Meagan says.
Meagan has been a participant in the Youth Self-Sufficiency Program for the past two years.
A key part of the program involves meeting regularly in one-on-one sessions with her youth worker. This has provided Meagan with consistent emotional support, a sense of security, and a source of much needed guidance. She says she’s able to talk to her youth worker about personal struggles, including child custody and parenting decisions, finding housing, and accessing resources.
Since 2012 when the initiative was launched, 40 young adults like Meagan have enrolled in the Burnside Gorge Community Association’s Youth Self-Sufficiency Program. The program is designed to be flexible, accommodating the unique needs, circumstance and daily schedules of the youth, while offering learning opportunities in areas including budgeting and finances, educational goal-setting, living in a rental apartment, job training, and relationship skills.
With help from the program, she was able to get back on track with school.
According to Meagan, she had to put her high schooling on hold when it became too difficult to juggle parenting her young son, academic work and other stresses in her personal life. But as her life slowly gets back on track, she hopes to begin exploring educational options with assistance from the program.
“At one point, we were living in a motel and I would drop my son at the daycare in the alternative school I was attending before going to classes,” Meagan says. “But it was hard to focus because I had so many other things on my mind.”
Now, thanks to the trusting relationship she has developed with her youth worker, Meagan has been able to open up about these problems and seek help. In addition to her desire to further her education, Meagan hopes to land a stable job as part of her quest for financial independence. She admits she’s not yet where she would like to be, but she’s come a long way from where she once was, due to the help she’s receiving from the Youth Self-Sufficiency Program.
“When you take care of the basic needs such as a safe place to live, food, and being the best parent possible, then you can have peace of mind to start working on goals like education,” Meagan says. “I feel the program has been integral in pointing me in the right direction.”