The Road Ahead
The Road Ahead

The Road Ahead

Dixie has big dreams for her future: To graduate from her certified nursing assistant class, then become a travel nurse. To become more independent and continue to live successfully on her own. Another dream—to get her driver’s license and her own vehicle. That dream is now a reality, with the help of DePaul’s Independent Living program.

“DePaul and Carmelita helped me with all of the paperwork and encouraged me throughout the process,” said Dixie, who is in the Independent Living program in Charlottesville.

The purpose of the program is to support young people who are transitioning out of foster care and preparing for adulthood. A piece of that puzzle is transportation, giving youth the ability to move freely. Public transportation has limits. Driving classes are sometimes hard to find and many times, spots are filled. The process to get licensed, get insurance, and get a vehicle is lengthy and often overwhelming. Purchasing a reliable vehicle from a reputable source can be expensive. According to a study conducted in 2018, the Virginia Commission on Youth (VCOY) found that of all the youth in Virginia’s foster care system who were of the age to drive, only 5% of them were able to get their licenses.

“The number of barriers that our youth often face can be daunting; however, we recognize this goal to be a significant key to independence,” said Chelsie Wilson, manager of Independent Living.

Before Dixie was driving on her own, she struggled to find rides from friends and sometimes felt uncomfortable riding the bus alone. Today, those worries are gone.

“Dixie is working consistently, keeping appointments, and has shown so much progress and growth,” said Meredith Breeden, Independent Living supervisor.

And Dixie is not alone. She is one of several youth in the program who obtained their license and purchased a vehicle. And DePaul was not alone in helping them do that. Youth also received financial support from the Virginia Department of Social Services and the Virginia Bankers Association.

“It was a lot to figure out even with the help, so I don’t know how I would have done it without the help,” said Hope, who is in DePaul’s Independent Living program in Abingdon.

On paper, it may not sound like much–a driver’s license, an insurance policy, a used car. But it means more. It means these young adults have a chance to control the direction of their lives, to dream big dreams, and to know they can navigate the road ahead.

*Photos by Ali Johnson Photography