“HYC has helped me by giving me a second chance. Providing me with the stuff I needed and showing me it is okay to ask for help.”
Mission and Vision
HYC’s mission is to eliminate barriers to graduation for homeless youth and create lasting solutions for a successful future through community support and increased awareness.
Our vision is that homelessness will not limit a youth’s opportunity for a successful future.
“I would like to thank HYC and Officer Sheffert for providing me and my brother beds so we no longer have to sleep on the floor, it’s really nice that even people who don’t know us are willing to help kids who don’t have much.”
“HYC is a great program and helps a lot. It gives you a feeling of hope and a feeling of just happiness. Knowing you are being helped by people who don’t have to is just beyond remarkable. HYC changes lives.”
In the 2014 AZ Homelessness Annual Report, the Department of Education Homeless Education Office reported 29,764 children were homeless throughout the state. In the 100 Valley high schools served by HYC, more than 2,000 youth have been identified as homeless. These students face numerous barriers to education, keeping many of them from completing high school or achieving post-secondary education. This affects a young person’s future ability to live independently, and results in undeveloped learning and communication skills, leading youth to have future difficulty integrating into society.
Currently, there are limited social services in the East and West Valleys, none of which serve homeless youth.
Unaccompanied homeless youth, often referred to as “youth on their own,” is the most difficult subpopulation of homeless to quantify. Many homeless youth do what they have to do in order to survive, such as sleeping in cars, bartering sex for shelter, “couch surfing” from one friend’s house to another, or residing with abusive family members who threaten to “kick them out.” Without real support, such youth may find themselves in and out of jail, dependent on the welfare system, or living their life in a chronic state of crisis.
HYC is a preventive measure to the potential negative life experiences above. If a homeless youth does not have to worry about where he is going to sleep that night or where his next meal is coming from, he can focus on staying in school and getting his diploma.
HYC serves homeless youth ages 13-21 who are attending local high schools. Youth are provided with basic necessities, case management, housing if needed, life skills and mentors to ensure they have the resources to stay in school, complete their education and have a chance at a brighter future.
Every generation comes with new hope and exciting challenges. Yet, today, homeless youth are faced with many challenges they are not prepared to handle. Homeless Youth Connection (HYC) grew out of a concern for homeless teens in the West Valley and the many obstacles they face in finding a path a successful future.
In 2009, Larry Cervarich was overwhelmed when he read about the struggle homeless teens in the West Valley faced each day just to stay in high school. The fact that these kids had nowhere to go and no safety net to fall back on was unacceptable. Working with his Rotary and local church, Larry established HYC. Beginning with a goal of providing for their basic needs, the organization has grown and now provides services and programs designed to help homeless teens achieve a successful, self-sufficient future.
In our first year, 2010-2011, HYC assisted 47 homeless teens with basic necessities. During 2011-2012, HYC provided 92 homeless teens with the basic items, as well as assistance with medical care and securing documentation and vital records so they could secure employment. HYC also added an advocacy position to ensure teens were aware of all the resources available to meet their needs and give them the support to stay in school. In 2012-2013, 128 homeless teens were served, and in addition to basic needs, students were offered counseling services and assistance with electives, tutoring, athletic programs and group activities sponsored by the high school.
In 2013-2014, HYC assisted 147 homeless youth, as well as developed and implemented a Life Skills program and assisted seniors with planning for secondary education or vocational training. In 2014-2015, HYC served 201 homeless youth; of those youth, 72 seniors graduated high school. This year HYC changed the mentor program to help students focus on their plan for post-graduation. HYC recognized that it was not enough to provide basic needs; we need to ensure that students have a plan to help them succeed in the future and be self-sufficient. To assist with this effort, mentors help students create a plan for going to college, pursuing a vocational program or the military. In 2015-2016, HYC served 245 total students. We also implemented the Host Family program to provide housing for unaccompanied youth. Seventeen youth were placed with Host Families, exceeding the goal of 15 students in the first year. In the 2016-2017 school year, we expanded to districts and schools outside the West Valley, serving schools throughout Maricopa County. In 2017-2018, and 2018-2019, we continued to expand our services and grow our staff. In the most recent school year, we served 730 students, and this year we anticipate serving more than 800. Since our inception ten years ago, we have served more than 2,700 students, and placed more than 100 in host homes.
HYC serves more than 100 traditional, online, and charter high schools in the following districts:
Agua Fria Union High School District
Buckeye Union High School District
Dysart Unified School District
Higley Unified School District
Mesa High School District
Paradise Valley Unified School District
Peoria Unified School District
Phoenix Union High School District
Tolleson Union High School District
Saddle Mountain Unified School District
Chief Executive Officer
Chief Development & Marketing Officer
Client Services Director
Community Engagement Manager
Clinical Case Manager
Board of Directors 2019-2020
Ginny Solis-Wright, President, HYC
Realty One Group
Cindy Tercero, Vice President, HYC
Phoenix Union High School District
Amanda Silva, Treasurer, HYC
Ryan Lantz, Secretary, HYC
Kate Hopeman, Previous President, HYC
Corinne Cookson, Director
Allyson Knappenberger, Director
DK Home Loans, LLC
Matt Parker, Director
Homeless Youth Connection believes philanthropy is based on voluntary action for the common good. It is a tradition of giving and sharing that is primary to the quality of life. Homeless Youth Connection is committed to ensure that philanthropy merits the respect and trust of the general public, and that donors and prospective donors can have full confidence in Homeless Youth Connection.
Homeless Youth Connection staff aspires to practice their profession with integrity, honesty, truthfulness and adherence to the absolute obligation to safeguard the public trust.
The attached documents are published for the public’s review to demonstrate Homeless Youth Connections commitment to accountability and transparency.