David and I

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Let me tell you a little bit about David. The things that David went through as a child are hard for me to even talk about and impossible for me understand. His upbringing through foster care as an adolescent was wildly tumultuous and caused trauma that will never truly be rectified.

In Branching Out, David and I have run the gamut. You name it, we’ve done it – laughed a lot, cried some, and in the end, tackled some pretty sizeable life milestones together. I say “together” because as David achieves milestones, so do I. The way he carries himself and keeps persevering no matter what roadblocks come up or who tries to bring him down makes me want to be a better person.

Over two years ago, one of David’s first goals was to learn how to ride the bus. Interruptions in David’s daily routine can cause him a lot of anxiety, so you can imagine how the many new sights, sounds and people encountered on public transportation could be a very fearful experience for David and prevent him from moving about town like most others do without a second thought. Unexpected changes of plan, like buses being late or missing a stop, are also really big challenges, but David took it in stride. Headphones alleviated fear and a familiar, trusted person eliminated the animosity. Both helped create an environment where David could actually learn the skills of navigating public transportation. After a few sessions, he was my bus guru! Fast forward to today and you’ll find David using the bus to get to work every day.

David (left) and Keenan

Next, David set his sights on learning to drive. After putting lots of hours into studying, he finally got his learner’s permit (now at age 20) and was ready to tackle Driver’s Ed courses. Getting from 46th and Sorenson to the National Safety Council on 120th and M Streets for Driver’s Ed via the MAT bus is not exactly easy. In fact, I’d challenge anyone to make the trek in two hours minimum. Yet David does it without a smart phone and usually gets there about 45 minutes early. The Millard 55 Route runs once an hour, so if David misses his second transfer, he also misses class.

David has spent the past two weeks of Driver’s Ed in the classroom, but last night was his first drive time. Not his first driving training for Driver’s Ed; it was his very first time ever even sitting in the driver’s seat of a car. It was his first time feeling the gas pedal and turning the ignition. Talk about unfamiliar territory! David went on residential and city roads. His only slight struggle was being a tad heavy on the gas pedal, but that’s an easily correctable issue. David will be driving on the interstate next week and will have his license in no time. He struggled on the permit test, but he has studied that book so many months that he knows every word in it now and knocked his first lesson out of the park.

So here we are, David and I. The smile on the left is that of someone who just drove a car for the first time. It’s the smile of a person who knows he has some BIG things in store for his life. It’s someone who has found his power. The smile on the right is one of someone who is blessed to witness and walk alongside an incredible human being like David.

This account was written by Keenan Page, Independent Living Employment Manager for our Branching Out Program.

About Branching Out Independent Living

Omaha Home for Boys Branching Out Independent Living Program increases the self-sufficiency of former foster care youth by helping them build the knowledge, skills and confidence needed to thrive on their own. In 2017, Branching Out served 141 young men and women who were one crisis away from homelessness. Branching Out is the safety net that keeps these youth off the streets by providing supportive case managers, individualized goal setting, supportive housing, education assistance, employment training and self-sufficiency skills building.

How You Can Help

David’s story of triumph over trauma is just one of the many we hear every day from our youth. Today, YOU have the power to help these youth write happy endings their stories. Please consider making an online gift today in honor of David and the more than 300 other at-risk youth who will seek the assistance of Omaha Home for Boys this year alone.

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