Last month, Antonio completed his first semester at Southern Illinois University. College is a giant step forward for anyone, but especially someone who just two-and-a-half years earlier had nowhere to call home. In 2013, Antonio was moving from house to house. His family was not close and were experiencing financial barriers and hardship. He describes his last year of high school as “tough.” However, he found 360 Youth Services’ Transitional Housing Program and started the program that summer.
Antonio said he was a close-minded individual when he began there, but he sure isn’t now. Hearing different perspectives allowed him to get in touch with his emotions. The rich diversity of people and experiences opened up a world that he says he was previously “mad at.” He shared several highlights. Being asked to speak at a 360 event gave him confidence; the life-skill groups helped him become more flexible; and serving on the 360 Youth Council taught him leadership skills.
Recently, the current 360 housing residents held an “etiquette dinner” at Meson Sabika. For many of the clients, it was the first time they had dined at a nice restaurant. Though Antonio had graduated out of the program, he says, “I planted the seed for that event and then someone else watered it.”
At Southern, he is a psychology major with his own apartment working part-time at the Athletic Department. He says, “I’m not letting my past interfere with my future.”
And that’s where Antonio is now.