In many ways, Shilo is a typical college freshman. He rushes from class to class and studies until midnight. He listens to Imagine Dragons, plays video games, collects unusual pop bottles, and reads science fiction. He has never thought of himself as different from anyone else. As a child, Shilo was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a mild form of autism characterized by social awkwardness that affects a person’s ability to communicate effectively with others. His mother, Laura, was taken aback with his diagnosis but never let that define him. Over the years Laura and Shilo have struggled with many issues, including losing several close family members and living on a fixed income. Shilo has always enjoyed school and made good grades. When he heard about Foothills’ Youth Investment Program it caught his attention.

“It sounded pretty cool,” said Shilo.

He enjoyed attending the afterschool sessions; but what he really liked was landing his first paid job at Little Caesars Pizza. For the first time he was able to earn extra spending money. Shilo also enjoyed participating in community service projects – like preparing treat bags around Christmas time and going on field trips with other participants. Going to the Family Life Adventure Center and fishing were his favorite daytrips.

“The program really helped pull Shilo out of his shell,” said Laura. “I began to see him socializing and interacting more with classmates and other people. My son became braver, more courageous.” The program helped Laura and Shilo in other ways too. “Many times we struggled financially,” said Laura. “Foothills always helped with clothing, food, and energy assistance. They were always there when we needed them.” They also provided her with emotional support. “As a single mom it’s hard,” she said, “so knowing that there are resources and people out there to help feels good. Even if it’s just to listen, it’s encouraging.”

Shilo’s self-esteem, confidence, and independence have increased significantly through his participation in the YIP program. “The only limitations Shilo has are the ones he places on himself,” said Laura. “He is a very intelligent young man and will be successful in life.” With Foothills’ help, Shilo began attending Morehead State University in the fall. He wasn’t fearful that the university might be too big or worried whether he would fit in. He’s making new friends and thriving. He has the confidence in himself to succeed and is currently pursuing a degree in graphic arts. Shilo’s goals are to obtain a college degree, live on his own, and work in a fulfilling career.

The Youth Investment Program helped youth 16-18 years old in Estill and Powell counties obtain skills needed to graduate high school. It encouraged learning inside and outside the classroom by supporting youth through summer and year-round work experience and academic enrichment. The program helped youth obtain the skills they needed to graduate or receive their GED, and prepared them for college (visits and tours, applications, financial aid, ACT preparation, supplies, etc.) and/or employment (resume, interviewing, dress for success, applications, etc.). Community service opportunities and leadership activities were also provided. The program was funded from 2000-2016. Throughout those sixteen years foothills served over 867 participants.

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