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Starting Right, Now Helps Homeless Families and Unaccompanied Youth Break the Cycle of Poverty

Nonprofit Receives Bank of America Neighborhood Builders® Award to expand staff and provide programs for the homeless

Most high school students juggle school, sports and living a normal teenage life, but when Randall Drayton was in high school, he had an extra worry on his mind – where to sleep at night.

Living between friends’ houses since sixth grade and getting involved with the wrong crowds, Drayton finally received help when a tutor from his high school suggested he join the Starting Right, Now mentoring program. Through the program, Drayton was matched with mentor Sandra Davis who taught Drayton social and life skills, financial literacy, and became his advocate at school and within the community.

In addition, Starting Right, Now helped Drayton live independently – he obtained a job, apartment, furniture, bus pass, computer, printer and internet access.

“Sandra helped me open up and taught me pride should not get in the way of asking for help,” said Drayton, now a freshman at Coastal Carolina University. “She always said, ‘Randall, God did not put us on this earth to be alone.’ I am very grateful for all she had done for me. She cares about me and who I become in the world.”

The mission of Starting Right, Now is to end homelessness for families or unaccompanied youth by providing a stable home, obtaining employment, teaching financial and life skills, and promoting educational achievement.

To help continue its work, the Bank of America Charitable Foundation named Starting Right, Now as one of its 2012 Neighborhood Builders recipients and presented the organization with a $200,000 grant and leadership training. The funds will go toward hiring a Director of Development, who will be tasked with promotion and fundraising for the organization.

This is in addition to a $15,000 grant to support the enhancement of Starting Right, Now’s year-long program focused on leadership training, communications skills and enrichment in preparation for life beyond high school for seniors attending Hillsborough County public schools.

“Ninety percent of Starting Right, Now’s programs are comprised of unaccompanied youth,” said Vicki Sokolik, founder and executive director of Starting Right, Now. “The funding from Bank of America will allow our organization to add support staff to serve additional youth in our area. This funding will make a huge difference in the number of students we are able to affect and will help us end homelessness in their generation.”

“Starting Right Now’s one of a kind model and its focus on turning the tide of poverty for these youth and families set it apart in the selection process, ” said Bill Goede, Tampa Bay market president, Bank of America. “We’re proud to support organizations that help our youth and families get on the road to stability and a better life. We know there are more kids like Randall in our community searching for a way to change their future.  By strengthening the capacity of Starting Right, Now, more of them will be served.”

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