Heather is eighteen years old and finishing up her senior year of high school. She has been going in and out of various placements over the past few years, which has prevented her from having the stability to learn the skills required for adulthood and independent living. One of the most important independent living skills that Heather had not been taught was driving. 

Riding public transportation
Learning to navigate public transportation, provides a positive step toward self-sufficiency in at-risk youth in Springfield, MO.

For the majority of individuals growing up in the American middle class, youth anxiously await their sixteenth birthday. They spend their fifteenth year being trained how to drive by their parents. Their parents drive them to the DMV and provide them with a vehicle to take their driving test. Many parents will buy their teens a car or provide them with the transportation necessary to obtain and maintain a job in order to purchase a vehicle. For foster kids, this scenario looks entirely different. 

Heather never had access to any sort of driver’s education. In southwest Missouri, there are only three options for youth in care to obtain reliable transportation:

1.) Live in one of the only two local group homes that offer to teach youth how to drive. 

2.) Sign up on a driver’s training waiting list with an organization, though many youth often age out of custody or change placements before they ever receive services. 

3.) Learn how to ride the bus. 

The bus never seemed like an option for Heather due to severe social anxiety. But through working with an I Pour Life LifeCoach, Heather was able to learn bus routes and overcome her social anxiety. Through the training and encouragement of her LifeCoach, she can now ride the city bus independently. Being able to ride the bus gives Heather the transportation that is necessary to maintain a job, have the option of being able to attend college courses, and go into the community independently. 

There are many challenges with the Springfield public transportation system. In order for an individual to arrive at work on time when riding the bus, they need to get to the bus stop at least an hour early. Then most bus routes do not run late at night, which limits individuals who rely on public transportation from having open availability for employers. 

Although navigating public transit is not the finish line for empowering youth through stable transportation, it is a major step in the right direction, especially for Heather. By learning how to ride the bus, Heather has taken a huge step toward independence by becoming mobile. Overcoming her struggle with social anxiety in this one area opens the door for Heather to overcome so many more fears and insecurities.

Click to learn more about LifeCoaches and the LifeStrengths positive youth development system.

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