For 17-year-old Chelséa, living in a foster home with overbearing, albeit well-meaning, foster parents was extremely different than the arms-length parenting she was used to. When Chelséa turned 18, she left the foster care system and attempted to switch high schools and live on her own. Her caseworker stepped in when she saw Chelséa struggling and suggested she try the Independent Living program through DePaul Community Resources’ Charlottesville office.
Right away, the program became the middle ground between childhood and independence that Chelséa needed. The program provided her with an apartment and helped her learn basic skills, while she attended school and had a job. “I knew how to do an interview, but I didn’t know how to do taxes, budget, or cook,” said Chelséa. “We don’t learn this in school and if no one sits down and teaches you these skills then you don’t know how to do them. The program was a great resource.”
Navigating apartment living, buying groceries, and saving for a car were all new experiences for Chelséa. Newer still was the confidence boost that came with the experience of living alone, paired with a support system to back her up. Chelséa grew from a self-described “people pleaser” who struggled to stand up for herself, to a life of independence as an assistant manager and homeowner living with her partner in Minnesota. Six years after graduating from the program, Chelséa is providing support to those in potentially similar situations by working with Big Brothers Big Sisters as a mentor.
“Having people you feel safe talking to who always look out for your best interest and support you no matter what is something that I can’t put into words. It’s invaluable.” — Chelséa Lewis
Click here to learn more about DePaul’s Independent Living Program.