Focused on their Futures: Empowerment Toward Independent Living

If you were to meet Juan today, you would experience a young man with vision. A young man of substance, grit, and capability. Who he is today, is not the Juan Back2Back staff have known for over ten years. As a young child at Rancho de los Niños Children’s Home, Juan was reserved, unsure of himself, and struggled intellectually. After ten years at the home, coupled with the support and guidance of Back2Back staff, he transitioned from his children’s home to independent living.

“As a result of his physical and intellectual struggles, we wondered if it would be difficult for Juan to achieve independence. As a young adult today, we realize we underestimated his determination and abilities,” explained Magda Castillo, Back2Back Transitioning to Independence Program Director. 

The Transitioning to Independence Program, started in 2019 in Mazatlán, is focused on accompanying adolescents in vulnerable situations toward adult life. Trained and qualified staff walk alongside them spiritually, physically, educationally, emotionally, and socially by providing tools to equip each one in becoming successful and responsible.  

Currently, the program has four students – three living independently and one young woman who lives in the Transition home; there are also four students preparing to enter this special phase of their lives. The students all attend doctor’s appointments, church, and social connection activities on their own and each have goals and plans for their future. 

The Transition Program creates the opportunity for him to flourish despite his challenges. Juan currently supports himself financially, attends physical and emotional therapies, and looks to safe adults for support when something feels difficult. 

When he started living on his own, he preferred to travel everywhere by foot – unsure of remembering bus routes and aware of his limitations. Staff supported his decision to walk everywhere, as he is close to most of his destinations, but recently Juan started using the Uber app on his phone. This has made travel easier and safer, and he knows when he needs help, he can ask.

“Little by little, each young adult has become more confident, with a vision of one day leading a life different from where they came from,” shared Magda. “We see their growth as they manage their responsibilities, commitments, and relationships. They are all focused on their futures.” 

Empowerment is key to this program, allowing teens to understand their options, acknowledging what came before doesn’t define what’s ahead. They are growing and stretching daily to conquer small hills and big mountains.