Bellows Falls, VT–Alexis Harris, 21, of Bellows Falls has been awarded the Youth of the Year Award by the Vermont Youth Development Program and the Vermont Coalition of Runaway & Homeless Youth Programs (VCRHYP), two state entities that work with community organizations such as Youth Services that serve young people in the state. The award was given this year to five young people in Vermont who have transformed their life in a positive way and has given back to their community while demonstrating resilience.
According to Michelle Sacco, Alexis Harris’ case manager at Youth Services, her client has gone in five years from an angry 16-year-old homeless teenager who had very little support in her life from anyone to being a 21-year-old woman with a 3-year-old daughter who works every day to help others in need.
“If someone needs help, Alexis is the first one to drop everything to be there for them, including employers,” stated Sacco who nominated Harris for the award. “Alexis was working two jobs, 6 days a week, often 12-14 hour days because she is not only a reliable, responsible and committee employee,” explained Sacco, “but she wants to take care of herself and her daughter without any assistance!”
In Bellows Falls, Harris performed a myriad of jobs to help those who come to the Drop In Center: looking for assistance with applying for housing, childcare, Reach UP, transportation, and Medicaid, in addition to filling the food shelves. According to Sacco, Harris started there as a volunteer and was recruited to fill a staff position because of her compassion and commitment to the people she serves.
In her nomination, Sacco recalled last year when Harris became a court-appointed guardian to a 17-year old girl who was facing serious drug charges. Harris took this girl in, gave her a home, made sure she made her court appointments, went to school, met with DCF and probation, got a job, had food and clothing and necessities, and stayed away from drugs and alcohol, according to Sacco.
Sacco marveled that Harris was so mature and responsible and focused that she could not only care for herself and her young daughter, but also this 17-year-old who needed a lot of support and supervision. And yet Harris did this and did it well. “This now 18-year-old is successful in large part from the love and care and commitment of a remarkable young woman who selflessly gave up her home, her time and often her sanity to be sure this young woman could be successful and safe,” testified Sacco.
“In my work with Bellows Falls young people I do see resilience, I do see potential, I do see love and courage,” Sacco explained, “but when I see on top of all that someone give up their time, their home, their independence, and their finances to help a young person in need and do so selflessly and with love and unending patience, I have to step back and smile and marvel and give thanks that I have been fortunate enough to not only know this person, but to have them as part of my life and my community,” enthused Sacco.
This winter Harris came full circle, said Sacco, serving as a Resident Advisor for Youth Services’ Shelter in Bellows Falls, in an unpaid, live-in position that deals with emergencies and day-to -day issues which arise with the shelter’s population of homeless youth.
Youth Services’ Bellows Falls office provides case management for youth ages 16-22; Independent Living Skills support, Shelter and Host Homes, JUMP: Just Us Moms Program, Personal Responsibility Education Program. A Runaway and homeless youth Hotline; Juvenile Diversion, Balance and Restorative Justice; RAMP Career-Focused Mentoring; and the Diaper Bank Collaborative.
For more information, contact Youth Services at (802) 460-0398, visit www.youthservicesinc.org or stop in at 22 Bridge St. in Bellows Falls, VT.