Childhood was not easy for Roger Hughey. He bounced in and out of foster care from the time he was born, landing in four or five different homes and attending at least four different schools.
Not surprisingly, Roger, now 19, did not graduate from high school and had some scrapes with the law. He is the father of a three-month-old girl, Laniyah, whom he adores, but he is not living with the baby’s mother at this time.
Luckily for Roger, the mom is in a program of St. Aemilian-Lakeside, a social services agency that helps young people like Roger who have aged out of foster care when they turn 18, but who lack a support system and any kind of real guidance in their lives.
By happenstance, Jane Ottow, who supervises St. Aemilian-Lakeside’s Independent Living Services program, was visiting with the mom and baby, met Roger and asked if he needed help.
As a result, Roger’s life is turning around. Through what is called Youth Transitioning to Adulthood (YTA), Roger has a counselor, Keith Schroeder, who supports him in seeking education, employment, housing and independent living skills.
They meet formally once a month, and every Wednesday Roger comes to St. Aemilian-Lakeside, at 89th and Capitol, to access a computer lab. But the two talk on the phone and text almost daily.
With three months of YTA under his belt, Roger is working on getting back into high school, is actively seeking a job with Keith’s help, and is working with Keith to find housing.
He is now living with an aunt, but the arrangement is not permanent.
Most important to Roger, he said, is “having someone to actually talk to who will listen to me and who is willing to help … I never had that before in my life, and I feel comfortable talking to him about anything.”
One of Jane’s primary goals for Roger is helping him be the best man he can be for his child.
“He needs support and direction for his life. And we want him to be a good father, to be present, and to be able to create a home for his family, even as a young man.” By helping Roger, Laniyah’s future also can be brighter, Jane said.
Roger’s dream is ultimately to open an auto-detailing business. In the meantime, he would love to get a job in a car repair shop or anywhere that he can demonstrate his strengths, which he says include dependability, good people skills and a real willingness to work.
St. Aemilian-Lakeside is always looking for adults willing to mentor young people like Roger, or to allow him to job-shadow, to see what different work places and professions are like. Anyone who is interested can contact Jane at 414-465-1363.
“Now I can see my future going in the right direction,” Roger said with a smile. “Without St. Aemilian-Lakeside I’d probably be on the streets.”