Gabriella is one of our twenty-six Class of 2023 program seniors. She has a big heart, and she is focused on making progress on the substantial goals she’s working towards. Already, she’s pursuing her licensure as a Certified Nursing Assistant with dreams of being a pediatric or neonatal nurse. She loves being around children, explaining that “kids bring me joy.” Her interest in nursing comes from a deep sense of wanting to give back, see advancements in curing diseases, work with youth, and make the world a better place.
With support from her Friends through FriendsPDX, Gabriella has made great strides towards achieving her goals, connecting with the FriendsPDX community, and exploring additional resources. Over the summer, Gabriella toured Portland Community College and researched how its program(s) might advance her journey in her nursing career. Currently, she’s working with our Associate Director of Future Pathways to complete her FAFSA and has decided she would like to stay local: “I’m looking at PCC, PSU, and the University of Portland because I can stay near my family. I have ten siblings, but we were split up after my parents separated. My childhood was mostly spent with my mom and my younger sister.” Gabriella doesn’t shy away from reflecting on her childhood.
"My mom had me at 22 and was the first in her friend group to have a kid. We lived off the highway near I-5 and it was a rough neighborhood to grow up in. It was intense being a kid and not even understanding what was happening around me. There was lots of stress around that – the unknown.
I was selected by FriendsPDX in 2011 when I was in first grade. I think the Friend observing the classroom could tell I was withdrawn. I was off in my own world. I was different because I didn’t go out of the way to talk to people and ultimately wanted to hide. I didn’t interact much with my peers either but when adults would talk and engage with me, I would light up. I’ve come out of my shell thanks to FriendsPDX."
At the beginning of this year, Gabriella hosted a stove-less and affordable cooking class for FriendsPDX youth. With the support of Ginny, her Friend, she met with our Partnerships and Youth Engagement Team Lead to plan the curriculum, identify costs, and create a budget. The featured ingredients were economical and can be purchased at the Dollar Store and easy-to-grow vegetables were highlighted as well. Not only did this activity fulfill Gabriella’s prosocial development Roadmap Goal, but she also felt she made a difference.
"I used to be ashamed of not being able to do certain things. My family didn’t have a lot of food to go around, and most cooking was a challenge because of electricity costs. I know for a fact that other kids being served by FriendsPDX are in similar situations even if they don’t talk about it. I want to make sure they are taught the strategies I learned and figured out, so they don’t have to experience embarrassment or shame. I spent six years eating out of a Hamburger Helper box. I had to get creative."
Gabriella and Ginny have had their own cooking adventures as well, making culinary dishes from around the world like empanadas and Korean hotdogs. Her work within the community reaches farther than FriendsPDX, too. She’s volunteered at Shepherd’s Door making meals for the group. Without a doubt, Gabriella is a multi-faceted young woman and always has been, even with complex and limiting systems in place. When asked about what she would tell young people who might be struggling, she was balanced in being realistic but also a beacon of hope.
"Don’t be afraid to ask questions and don’t be too afraid of new things. If you’re afraid of new things, you aren’t going to see the rainbow on the other side. Even though we might start in a dark place, and we’re not expected to make it out of our situations, it doesn’t mean it’s the truth. FriendsPDX has opened my eyes to what you can be, which is so much more than how you might be labeled. Quit listening to labels people put on you. I’ve come from all of this, but here I am! And I am proud of who I am."
Our FriendsPDX Roadmap Goals focus on five intermediate outcomes: school success, making good choices, improved health, plans and skills for the future, and prosocial development. This story highlights a few of Gabriella’s Roadmap Goals and demonstrates how Friends walk alongside youth in a deeply impactful way. And with your support, youth can dream big, realize their goals, and achieve them!