Program provides safety net for independent teens

Thursday, March 27th 2008, 6:04 pm
By: News 9

By Melissa Maynarich, NEWS 9

There is a demographic in Oklahoma that seems to have fallen through the cracks. 

There are countless teenagers living without parents or help from the DHS. Despite the challenges, dozens of these teens are now getting through school because of an influential program.

High school Senior Jaymesha Thrash is a straight A student who plans to prom this year. She's about to graduate, and is looking forward to college.

Her life is what most people think life is supposed to look like when you're a teenager. But looks can be deceiving. According to the teen, while her mother was suffering from an alcohol problem, Jaymesha lived with her dad. It was only her sixth-grade year when she decided to move out of her father's home.

"...and I've been living with other people since the sixth grade," Jaymesha said.

She manages to work between classes and after school in John Marshall High School's front office, racking up nearly 40 hours a week. While it may seem natural for other teens her age, Jaymesha wasn't expecting to graduate from high school.

"No, I never thought I was going to make it to the 12th grade," Jaymesha said, going on to explain that many in her situation end up out on the streets or in jail. 

Jaymesha is one of 50 kids in this situation. Instead of the streets, these 50 children plugged into a program called SKIL, or Supporting Kids in Independent Living.

Children living independently don't receive funding from DHS and often don't get support that a parent would typically offer. Instead, they simply fall through the cracks and struggle through life.

Many teens in this situation find the help they're looking for at the Youth Services offices. There, they can get items they need, like soap, food, and can even receive financial support.

To the 50 kids involved in SKIL, the employees of the Youth Services office are more than just a helping hand.  To these children, those employees are family. To Jaymesha, their help has made a tremendous difference in her life.

"Nobody in my family graduated and so I'll probably be the first one in my whole family who went somewhere, graduate from high school...then I'm going to college," Jaymesha said.

SKIL will host a fundraiser Saturday night at the Oklahoma City Golf and Country Club.