It was my pleasure to interview Elizabeth and to learn about how teens become homeless through no fault of their own, the impact that has on our community, and YOTO’s mission to break that cycle.

  1. Describe for us why Youth On Their Own, or YOTO, was started and what it does to help homeless teens graduate from high school.
  2. Most of my guests are small business owners, but I also like to interview C-Suite professionals whose companies have a particular impact on Tucson. YOTO is definitely such an organization because we need to develop the next generation of an educated, healthy workforce. What is YOTO’s impact on our community, and how do you track that?
  3. The teens who are served by YOTO are homeless through no fault of their own. Many of them have parents who suffer from drug addiction or other dependency that prohibits them from creating stability for these kids. Additionally, I believe the US in general has an 80% high school graduation rate and a 25% college graduation rate, often because of financial challenges. When you think of the odds students are already facing to get their education, YOTO kids are particularly at high risk for not finishing school. Describe for us what their life is like and what they have to overcome to secure a better future for themselves.
  4. I’ve seen some of the student testimonials on your website. Is there a particular student success story that sticks out in your mind?
  5. The oldest members of Gen Z are now 21, and I imagine out of necessity many YOTO students have already entered the workforce parttime. I often hear business owners talk about being short staffed but unable to find reliable entry level workers. What strengths do you feel Gen Z could bring to an organization willing to invest in younger workers? And what could those companies do to adapt to this new workforce?
  6. I’m going to switch gears to discuss how you approach fundraising. I’m asking because one of the things that I’ve observed over the years is the discomfort some business owners feel around money, whether it’s determining their fee, collecting outstanding invoices, or just being afraid to hear “No, I won’t pay that much.” Money in general is just a source of anxiety, so I wanted to use this opportunity to pick the brain of someone who has to routinely ask for it. Have you had any fears around having to make “the ask,” and how do you conquer them?
  7. I think many business owners and professionals have moments when they question why they continue to do what they do. Fundraising, especially with the success that you’ve had, is a fairly tireless effort. How did nonprofit work come to have such meaning for you? What keeps you going?
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Small Business, Big Voices: Episode 11