Many obstacles have tried to keep Pertesha Armstrong from achieving her dreams, but through the ups and downs she has tried hard to maintain maturity and poise. Pertesha is set to graduate with an undergraduate degree in criminal justice and emancipate from the Department of Child and Family Services (DCFS) in May 2014. With the help of UCAN through the Independent Living Program, Pertesha was able to live independently while going to school and holding a job.
Orphaned as a child, Pertesha was permanently adopted when she was 3 years old. While growing up, Pertesha experienced friction with her adoptive family. Tensions rose until Pertesha left her house during her senior year of high school.
Homeless, Pertesha drifted from shelters and foster homes until she was placed in the Transitional Living Program at UCAN in 2011, followed by the Independent Living Program a year later. Even during this difficult time, she never let her educational aspirations waver. “Education has always been so important to me. I wanted the American dream. In high school I knew the steps I was taking were not going to lead to that, so I made the decision to focus on school. I was the only one of my eight close friends to graduate.”
After graduating high school, Pertesha was able to find her biological family. Her mentors provided her with a list of her relatives’ names in the Chicagoland area. By searching Facebook, she was able to contact her sister who quickly gave Pertesha’s phone number to her mother. “When I got this phone call and the woman said my name, I knew it had to be my mother. I’ve never heard someone say my name that way.” The family has since been reconnected and has become a strong support system in Pertesha’s life: “I am so happy I have found my family. It was like a piece of my heart that was missing.”
With a strong loving support system behind her and graduation imminent, Pertesha is on the right track to a bright future. “UCAN was an essential stepping stone to get where I needed to go in life. Without UCAN, I don’t know where I would be.”