Khadijah had frequently faced challenges in her life. At a very young age she lost her father at just 7 years old to gun violence. Growing up in an abusive household, she was at the center of frequent conflict with her own mother. The situation eventually escalated, and Khadijah found herself kicked out of her mother’s home, left to find support for herself. Khadijah received help from her older sister who supported Khadijah a majority of her life. Eventually, her sister was unable to provide the full support she needed. Khadijah found herself experiencing homelessness at the age of 18, and it was then that her journey with Valley Youth House began.
Khadijah was accepted into the agency’s Independent Living program. Looking back on the time she spent in the program, Khadijah recognized that even though she was angry and hesitant to open up about her difficult past, the staff at Valley Youth House remained patient and supportive. As she spent time opening up about her trauma in therapy and working on different life skills, she began to realize that the support she was receiving from her mentors was helping her become the person she had always wanted to be. “Being in Valley Youth House made me want to be a better person and heal myself,” she said. She also realized that her time with Valley Youth House was only the beginning of her journey.
After exiting the program in 2012, Khadijah decided it was time to take the skills she had learned and enroll in school full-time at Kutztown University to get her Bachelor’s degree. She began school on a high note, excelling in her classes and finishing her first semester with an impressive GPA. But times got tough again and she found herself without a home, doubting if she could finish her degree. While she decided to leave Kutztown University at this time, something in the back of her mind wasn’t ready to give up, and she re-enrolled in courses at Lehigh Carbon Community College, graduating with her Associate’s Degree in Paralegal Studies in 2017.
After coming this far and building a solid support network around her, she was ready to keep going. Because of her connection to Valley Youth House, Khadijah was accepted into a program at Kutztown University that assisted students who were in the foster care system or similar situations. The people in her life were cheering her on to succeed, and by this point, she only needed six more credits to graduate with her Bachelor’s Degree. Her hard work and dedication finally paid off and she graduated from Kutztown University just a few semesters later. “Is this a sign for me to keep going?” she thought. That’s exactly what it was. In May of 2023, Khadijah proudly graduated from Kutztown University with her Master’s Degree in Social Work and began her new career as a therapist back where it all began – Valley Youth House.
“It feels really good to know that I’m a product of this program. This program has set the foundation for so many things that I’ve achieved in life.”
Khadijah’s story can teach us so much about ourselves. While the relationships and connections we forge with others are valuable parts of our journeys and identities, nobody can define our paths but ourselves.