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Stuart left home after his mother lost her job.

“That’s when I branched off,” he explained. “In my mind, I thought let me take some load off her, give her one less mouth to feed. I was staying with cousins and close friends. I didn’t have no stable housing for two or three years. I was having problems at home and I didn’t enroll in school because of discipline problems. That led me to boot camp for five months. After boot camp, I didn’t have no place to go, so they referred me to TLP [SBY’s Transitional Living Program.]”

At TLP, Stuart lives in an apartment with a roommate in a co-ed building. He and his neighbors are responsible for their own cooking, cleaning, and laundry. Living on his own is nothing new, so Stuart had already acquired some of the skills he needed to take care of himself, but he’s still honing others.

“I’m still trying to get good at the cooking,” he said. “The microwave is my best friend.”

The activities and opportunities he found in Sasha Bruce’s programs enabled Stuart to focus on his future. “They have classes about entrepreneurs, etiquette, college counseling. You meet all types of people. I met two of my closest friends.” Stuart said a highlight for him was the college tour he went on with Sasha Bruce to several Historically Black Colleges throughout the south.

“It was a chance to leave the city,” he said. Beyond just a get away, being on college campuses was inspirational to Stuart. “Walking through and seeing the mentality and maturity when you’re in college. Everybody was happy. That’s something that gave me another reason to go to college.” Stuart is now enrolled at the University of the District of Columbia, where he plans to attend for two years before transferring to another school. He plans to study business and psychology with an eye on pursuing a career in the music business. He already writes songs and raps.

In the meantime, Stuart worked for Sasha Bruce as a junior camp counselor during the summer, a job he enjoyed more than he expected. “I didn’t know I would have so much fun doing this. I would like to do this year round,” he said. ““I look after the kids, talk to them about certain things, make sure they don’t get into fights.” He said that kids seem to respect him and listen to his opinions because he knows the kind of tough situations they face. “I know where a lot of them are coming from,” Stuart said. “I’ve actually lived through some of the stuff they’re talking about. I have a better understanding of why they do the things they do.”

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