“One of the biggest struggles for me growing up was the lack of family,” reflects Misael Toledo, 23-year old resident of Center For Family Services’ Camden DREAMS program.
Throughout Misael’s young life he’s experienced every living situation imaginable. Shelters, friend’s and relative’s homes, an adoptive family, and finally safe housing. He naturally became a go with the flow person, easily adjusting to whatever situation was thrown at him.
He was resilient. But in Misael’s own words, he felt disposable.
His relationship with his adoptive family was already dissolving when he told them his plans not to enter the Air Force after high school. “They asked me 'where are you going to be living'. They essentially kicked me out of the house because I decided not to go in the Air Force. I felt like the true meaning of family was taken away from me at that moment.”
But he bounced back thanks to the support of relatives and friends who offered him safe places to live, even if temporary. He also enrolled in college and began to work, always remaining focused on bettering himself and his situation.
By chance, Misael ran into the case worker from the Department of Child Protection and Permanency (DCPP) that worked with him prior to his adoption. He reconnected him to social services, like a safe and supportive place to live, which he desperately needed to continue to pursue his dreams.
Unfortunately, after a year in the youth safe housing program, he was no longer eligible due to a change in age requirements.
Thanks to the support of the Department of Children and Families, he was able to secure a paid internship which then lead to an additional internship at the Camden Center for Youth Development where he mentored 13-18 year olds in things like education, personal goals, and more. The youth were coming from all different backgrounds, some similar to Misael.
“I’ve always had a passion in the development of youth and adolescents and especially teaching,” says Misael.
In the fall of 2014, Misael decided to transfer to Rutgers Camden to continue his degree in Psychology but housing was still difficult to obtain. It would be difficult, if not impossible, for Misael to get by on his own.
Thanks again to the Department of Children and Families Misael was connected to Center For Family Services and the course of his future changed forever.
“Living independently at Camden DREAMS has been such a blessing. Because of the support of staff I know the transition into my own home will be seamless. Without Camden DREAMS I’d be struggling to make ends meet,” says Misael. “I was able to pursue an education and focus on my future because of this program.”
Dwayne Ingram, Camden DREAMS’ Program Director, couldn’t agree more. “Misael is a prime example that once basic needs, like shelter, are met, anything is possible.”
With the help of Camden DREAMS staff, Misael was given the opportunity to learn to live on his own but with the supports he’s always lacked in his life.
“Because of Center For Family Services I’m able to call somewhere home, this place is my home,” says Misael.
In the summer of 2016, Misael graduated from Rutgers Camden with a Bachelors in Psychology. He’s now applying and interviewing for jobs.
“So many people worked together to make my success possible,” says Misael. “I’ve learned to dig deep, set goals, and to always be ready to accept an opportunity to better myself.”