Amanda Willard Youth Peer Support Specialist, Clackamas County 971.803.8055 l  amanda@youthmoveoregon.com 11097 SE 21st Ave., Milwaukie, OR 97222

Amanda Willard
Youth Peer Support Specialist, Clackamas County
971.803.8055 l  amanda@youthmoveoregon.com
11097 SE 21st Ave., Milwaukie, OR 97222

Amanda’s parents divorced just as she turned seven. After the divorce, her mom moved to the heart of Portland—one of the city’s poorest areas. She spent her childhood living in poverty while her father lived a more privileged life. Amanda learned more wrong than right living in the ghetto and it was there that she was first introduced to drugs. She started hanging out with people she thought would protect her, but quickly realized that they were anything but safe. The main person Amanda knew in the area began raping her. She never saw any signs—she didn’t think he would ever do something like that to her since she was just a child. This man knew where she lived, paid attention to her daily routines and continued to assault her. She just wanted to make it all disappear—make it all stop, but she didn’t know how. Amanda was too young to realize she’d been victimized. This man had convinced her that he was in love with her and that she was in love with him. She forced to grow up faster than any young person should have to.

Most days she felt terrified to leave her house but her house wasn’t all that much better. Amanda’s mother didn’t notice when she started acting out, exhibiting violent tendencies and other strange behaviors. She didn’t know anything about Amanda’s life once she left their home, other than that she was going to “hang out with friends”. She didn’t know anything about life on the streets; she was oblivious but that wasn’t her fault. Amanda’s father was physically abusive towards her and her mother. Her mom managed to extricate them from that situation merely by luck. After her grandmother completed suicide when Amanda was six, her mother inherited the family home. She had to work full-time just to support her two children and half of the time she had no idea where Amanda was.

When her mom lost her job and could no longer support her and her brother, she gave Amanda to a very loving and caring foster family. This family became Amanda’s real family. They taught her right from wrong and supported her for almost three years, but they were also struggling. Her foster dad worked during the day and her foster mom worked nights. Her foster family had four kids of their own; three of which, younger than Amanda. There were two hours after school each day where the kids were home by themselves. She learned to cook and clean while taking care of her younger siblings.

When Amanda was ripped from her new family when she was fourteen after her mother decided she wanted her back. Her mom was still living in the ghetto and Amanda quickly got caught up in drugs. Her life began to spiral out of control. She started smoking pot and popping molly, while still attempting to finish her high school education. Although she managed to pass her classes, Amanda had no idea what was going on most of the time. She loved school but she hated when school was over and she had nowhere safe to go.

She started partying and doing more drugs; every time she got high, she just wanted to get higher. Finally a new vice pulled Amanda away from drug use; she started drinking. Getting drunk became the only way she could make it through the day. The alcohol numbed the pain of her past like a Band-Aid covering an open wound. Amanda created a wall around her herself which, numbed her true emotions. She started to self-harm to finally feel something. She got into abusive relationships; since she grew up with an abusive father she thought violence was just a “normal” part of a relationship. She struggled with an eating disorder that eventually became too much for her to handle. She went from weighing 200 pounds to 110/115 pounds depending on whether she had eaten that day.

She found out about Youth M.O.V.E. Oregon when she was waking to the bus after school. She started hanging out at the Clackamas Drop soon after. It was a place that kept her off the streets and kept her from having to go home. She met a sweet boy who treated her right; he never put his hands on her, hurt her, or let anyone else hurt her. They dated for a year. She and her boyfriend both struggled with drinking problems, so they started attending a YMO recovery group to work on their addictions. Then they found out that Amanda was pregnant; they were both seventeen and still in high school. YMO became an amazing source of support for Amanda as she faced this new phase of her life.

Amanda quit drinking when she found out she was pregnant and remains clean and sober. She no longer has an eating disorder nor does she use self-harm as a coping skill. She is a single mother working hard to co-parent her daughter with her child’s father. She is focusing on raising her daughter and is committed to making sure that she daughter doesn’t have to grow up with the same challenges she had to face.

Amanda finished high school and started attending college classes as a young single mother. She completed her first year, hoping that her story could inspire other teen and young adult parents to never give up and always strive for success. She found a job as a youth peer support specialist at the Clackamas Drop. YMO also helped Amanda take steps to find her first apartment. Amanda appreciates Youth M.O.V.E. for helping her to accomplish much more than she ever thought she could and she looks forward to helping other young adults do the same.