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Group helping Valley homeless teens graduate

The Homeless Youth Connection has two goals: To dispel the rumors about homeless teenagers and to help those same teenagers get ahead in life.

“The first thing the adult world thinks of homeless teenagers is ‘Oh, they’re on drugs, they dropped out of school, they’ve been in jail’ and all that,” Homeless Youth Connection Chairman Larry Cervarich told News/Talk 92.3 KTAR’s Bruce St. James Show. “I’ve got to say, in four years, we’ve only had one or two that have been heavily involved in drugs.”

Cervarich said 99 percent of the homeless teens he works with struggle to reach one big goal.

“They want to graduate,” he said. “We were very proud last year that we had 28 of our seniors graduate and some of them are actually in college.”

In 2012, HYC worked with 20 West Valley high schools and helped 146 students. This year, the organization is working with 30 high schools and is aware of 500 homeless teens. It plans to help between 250 and 300 of those.

“All of the students that we connect with come through the councilors, the principals of the schools,” said Cervarich.

While a majority of the teens opt to “couch surf,” or stay with friends until their welcome wears off, Cervarich said some of them sleep in fields or golf courses. He had one case of a child sleeping on the roof of his school.

Homeless Youth Connection’s work isn’t limited to just graduating students. It has a financial aid program that will allow affected teenagers to participate in sports and other activities as well as a 16-week life shills course that teaches them everything from handling a job interview to banking.

To learn more about Homeless Youth Connection, go to hyconnectionkids.org.