Ash’s Story:

Staying on the right path with All In for Youth.

Ash is a grade 12 student who lives independently. After leaving home more than a year ago, she took on many adult responsibilities well before many other teenagers. Facing the daunting task of finishing high school, she met Tom, a Success Coach for All In for Youth (AIFY). Supported by guidance and funding from United Way, AIFY seeks to help Calgary’s students finish high school, find employment, and pursue post-secondary education. Success Coaches serve as a vital point of human contact for students to receive support and development.

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“Because of All In for Youth, I feel more supported in my endeavours and my ability to strive for success.”

I don’t live with my parents. It’s a long story, but they don’t accept the fact that I’m trans, and so I had to leave to be myself. It was really hard to even get out of bed and fulfill my basic needs. Without your parents there, you fall apart. Add in a few mental health problems, or in my case, a healthy, heaping spoonful; you can fall apart and become non-functioning. It was hard to pull myself up, build the skills, and figure out how to live as an adult a couple of years before I officially became one.

I get funding from a program for high school students who don’t live with their parents. The people who run that program introduced me to All In for Youth, and my Success Coach, Tom, last year. There have been a lot of adults in my life that were the exact opposite of supportive and caring, but Tom is a very easy person to talk to. He’s very forthcoming and comes across as a person instead of an authority figure. For example, with a school counsellor, you schedule an appointment. You have to pick a time. Then, you come into their office and sit down. Whereas with Tom, I can drop by his office and say hi anytime. It’s more of a friendship than a professional relationship in that sense.

Tom helps me with a lot of general mental health support and advocacy. He’s able to send emails to people and get responses. Whereas if I were doing it, I would be less likely to be able to get in touch with important people in the school’s area of influence. He’s also helping me find a job.

We text each other occasionally when we need to. For example, I’ll say, “I’m having a bad day; this is what’s happening.” Then I’ll come by during lunch or class to talk about it and get some mental health support. Or a lot of the times, I’ll be walking by, and his door will be open, and I’ll just drop by and say, “Hi.”

School’s been a special place for me. It’s the community that school brings; the learning environment has always been that place for me, which is why I show up every day. It’s comforting in that way; it’s familiar. I enjoy the process of figuring things out and making connections between abstract concepts and topics.

Interacting with Tom, being in a closer relationship, and being friends, makes me feel like I have a safety net. If something goes wrong, I have someone to lean on. I’ve found that the more people you have pushing you up that wall and helping you surmount your odds, the easier it is and the more secure you feel. I’ve deeply contemplated suicide before. But the one thing that held me back was that it could get better. And if I push, it will get better. And having other people help push with you alleviates that mental stress, that uncertainty of the future.


Photo courtesy Brett Gilmour.

In the 2021-22 school year, 247 students received ongoing support from a Success Coach, and 366 students accessed one-time Success Coach support. This includes mental health referrals, food security supports, and other outreach. All In for Youth and their support for students like Ash is made possible by community members like you.


Support young people in your community.

Elijah BeaverAsh