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Success Story: Shay

When Shay was 10 she witnessed the murder of her mother, father and sister. Reeling from the trauma and grieving the loss of her family, she went to live with a relative. The next few years were challenging and Shay felt herself getting off-track.

“I guess you could say I went out of control,” she remembers. “I started sneaking out of the house. I was going to parties. I was drinking. It was just a really bad situation.” Struggling to find her footing, she spent several years moving between group homes and foster care.

With encouragement from her social worker, Shay came to YWCA St. Paul and enrolled in the IMPACT Program. Through IMPACT, she’s gained paid work experience and so much more. “I’ve met awesome people here,” Shay says. “The YW has given me a lot of opportunities to learn and grow.”

Working as a program aide in YW’s Youth Achievers Program (YAP) Shay discovered a passion for youth work. Whether assisting with homework, providing encouragement when someone is having a rough day or helping kids to try new things, Shay loves her work and thinks it may be her calling. “I want to help youth grow up and get the help they need,” she explains.

“I want to help youth grow up and get the help they need.”


Having attended 10 schools over the course of 12 years, Shay is proud to have graduated from high school on-time. She recently completed her first year of college, and is looking forward to discovering what’s next. “I was stuck in misery for a long time,” she says. “Now I’m out of it and I’m loving my life.”

Video Transcript

Shay: I was 10 years old when I saw my family get murdered. They kicked out of the back door. They ended up dragging my dad into my mom’s room and the gunshot went off and it got silent. And a guy comes back and shoots my sister, shoots my mom and leaves and I’ve seen it all and I’m like… I closed back my eyes.

Billy, Youth Development Coordinator: After that traumatic event happened to Shay, she went to live with her aunt. And of course having going through something like that, you know, she started to rebel.

Shay: I guess you could really say I went out of control. I started sneaking out of my house. I wanted to go to parties, I was drinking, it was just really a bad situation for me. My aunt really couldn’t handle it.

Billy: so she was placed in foster homes.

Shay: I’ve lived in about four or five group home, foster homes

Wendy, Shay’s Grandmother: I know that she felt like people were giving up on her. I absolutely know she felt like that she had nowhere to go and Shay asked me if she could come to live with me and I said yes. She’s come a long way and I think the YW played a big part in that.

Shay: I’ve met awesome people here. The YW has given me last opportunities to learn and grow it’s pretty awesome.

Billy: IMPACT is a program that serves youth from the ages of 15 to 24. We helped them with academic enrichment, life skills and work readiness. Shay came to the program last summer. [Screen shows Shay working with children’s group, with text onscreen: Through IMPACT, Shay got a job working with younger children at the YWCA.] She works down in the Youth Achievers Program, she works with kids from a third grade to eighth grade. And she is amazing with these kids and they love her, they respect her. We are lucky to have her here.

Shay: I know how they feel too, I guess cause everyone has a story, everyone goes through things but everybody needs someone to lean on, to tell them you’re gonna do this and you’re gonna become somebody. I want every kid to know that, because you don’t want to be stuck in misery, nobody does and I was stuck in misery for a long time. And I am out of it, I’m loving my life right now, not giving up on youth is a huge thing.

Billy: That that warms my heart to see her, in the way she communicates with these kids, it is something special to see.

[Shay walking to Saint Paul College]

Shay: Right now I am completing my first year at St. Paul College. I really want to be a social worker. I want to help youth grow up and get the help that they need the right way instead of the wrong way.

Wendy: I think she’ll keep on trying, keep on pushing herself because it’s important to shade that she does something big and she’s headed there.