In some ways, Devon Trowell has come full circle.
Four years ago, the now-22-year-old Londoner was in dire straights. Out of school and without an income, Trowell was also essentially homeless. Her struggle led her to the Youth Action Centre, a branch within London’s Youth Opportunities Unlimited (YOU).
There, she received some much-needed guidance. Staff helped her fill out an application to live in The Cornerstone, an affordable housing complex downtown, and within a week she had been approved for both the housing and for Ontario Works.
Immediately, Trowell immersed herself in the resources available at YOU, including educational offerings, as well as volunteer and employment opportunities. Once back on her feet, she left the supportive housing environment and got a place of her own.
In 2012, she returned. Not as a resident this time, but as an employee. Trowell currently serves as the on-site superintendent at the housing facility. She credits YOU a great deal in helping turn her life around.
“I learned how to live independently and I gained quite a bit of work and volunteer experience,” she said. “(YOU) has helped me realize my potential and how I can use it for the better.”
On Tuesday, she will share her story of resiliency in her keynote address, Understanding Me, at the annual Breakfast for YOU event, which will be held at the London Convention Centre from 7 to 9 a.m.
Trowell will talk about the beginning of her struggles, growing up as a bullying victim because of her sexual orientation, as well as her additional problems at home and at school. But perhaps more importantly, she’ll address her ability to overcome those obstacles and convey a message of hope to others struggling with their own issues.
“I want all youth to know that no struggle is too small, and no question is too dumb,” she said. “Sometimes you may need a hand up, other times you may just need someone to point you in the right direction. But there is always someone who cares and is willing to help.”
At YOU, that help may be in the areas of housing, mental health, addiction or job search and employment. The mission of the organization, after all, is to unlock the potential of local youth by empowering them and enhancing their skills — both in life and on the job.
With a good deal of knowledge now under her belt, Trowell has her sights set on a career as a police officer. She’s hoping to be applying to police forces in five years after completing a degree in criminology.
“I want to put all the personal and professional experience YOU has offered me towards understanding and helping others,” she said. “Something that I’m passionate about and where I can give back to our community.”
Besides the keynote addresses from Trowell and Valerie Christie, Tuesday’s breakfast will also include an auction and a raffle for a getaway trip to Stratford valued at $1,000. All proceeds from the event will go toward YOU’s ongoing programs and services for local youth. The organization is helping to provide them with better futures.