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“People are always willing to help you if you’re willing to help yourself! Thanks to Covenant House, I know anything is possible through hard work and perseverance, and people who really care.”

Donneal was born in Grenada and arrived in the US when he was 4 years old. He was reunited with his mother who had immigrated a few years earlier and settled in Brooklyn. Eventually, his mother married and they relocated to New Jersey.  Donneal’s high school in Newark was filled with gangs and violence and very little support or encouragement from teachers. School seemed like a waste of time to Donneal and he stopped going his junior year. His mother wanted him to work and when he didn’t get a job, she kicked him out of the house. Donneal couch surfed at friends’ houses for about two weeks until his stepfather heard about Covenant House and suggested Donneal look into the program. Donneal imagined Covenant House would be dirty and unsafe like other shelters and didn’t want any part of this idea. But when people stopped offering their couches, Donneal ran out of options. It was either the violent and dangerous streets or Covenant House.

Once Donneal walked through the doors of Covenant House he realized he was not in a typical adult shelter. It was clean, safe and he loved the staff. They were always willing to help and he could tell they really wanted what was best for him. He met young people that had experienced similar circumstances.  The staff helped him obtain his GED and get his state ID – two things he really needed to get a job. Although everything was going really well, after 6 months, Donneal got tired of the rules at Covenant House and left to go back home. Without the structure he had at Covenant House, Donneal became complacent and his mother gave him an ultimatum to go back to work or leave. Donneal decided to go back to Covenant House instead. He knew the doors would be open for him and that they would give him another chance. 

Donneal was welcomed back as long as he was ready to keep focused and follow his case plan. This time he knew he could do it.  Donneal enrolled in Essex County College and got a job at the mall. Working and going to school wasn’t easy and Donneal had his ups and downs until he finally had to drop out of school to keep things together. Despite the setbacks, he was committed to staying strong. He worked two jobs and moved into our Rights of Passage program. Miss Trish wrote him a recommendation letter to attend the Empower Program, a nonprofit IT organization. Donneal found out he loved the IT world and graduated in December 2016. Donneal had enough money saved to buy a car and get his own apartment! Donneal was on his way to success and stability. 

At 23 years old, Donneal is still living on his own and working full time at West Side Presbyterian Church in Ridgewood. He will be re-enrolling at Essex County College soon to study Information Technology and hopes to get a job in the field once he graduates.

“People are always willing to help you if you’re willing to help yourself! Thanks to Covenant House, I know anything is possible through hard work and perseverance, and people who really care.”

Are you a youth in need of help?

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