Music followed Steven every time he moved. The first time Steven was removed from his mom’s custody at age four, his foster mom, a keyboardist in a band, taught him how to play the piano and guitar.

The second time he was removed from his mom, at seven, his foster parents entered him into the strings program at his school. He later started playing cello after he moved to Buckhannon with his biological mom. And by the time he entered middle school in Clarksburg, he decided to pick up the trombone.

Although he moved so often (six times in elementary school, three in middle, and three in high school), Steven said, music always helped him find friends, a common language he could speak. It was a chance to help escape his troubles at home, a tiny, temporary raft of stability. Since becoming a resident at Turning Point last year, a residential home for youth ages 15–21 in the custody of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources, Steven’s found what feels like the first real form of stability he’s ever known. He’s found a therapist who’s helping him address and process the physical, mental, and emotional abuse he experienced throughout his childhood. He’s found a case worker, Lynda, who has helped him fill out college applications and who was in the stands cheering at his recent high school graduation.

Turning Point is one of the direct-assistance programs by Daymark, a nonprofit based in Charleston working to help meet the individual needs of youth living in crisis through safe shelter, guidance, and education. In addition to Turning Point, Daymark runs a homeless shelter for youth, as well as an independent-living program designed to give young adults the tools they need to be independent. Daymark also offers educational programs to help prepare students to take the TASC exam in order to transition to a four-year or community and technical college.

Thanks to support from The Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation, Daymark is able to continue its work helping kids like Steven realize their potential.

“After entering Turning Point, you get the realization that there’s always somebody there to help you,” Steven said. “… They treat me with respect, and that’s just something I’ve never had.”

Until Steven entered Turning Point, he didn’t think college was in his future. He wasn’t even sure he was going to finish high school. He was too busy taking care of his younger siblings. He’d just find a job in the service industry, maybe work in fast food, he guessed.

But Daymark employees helped him see his potential. They helped him narrow down his college search. They connected him to programs to help fund his education. They drove him to Marshall University when he auditioned on the trombone for the music program.

In August, when Steven moves again, it will be to start his first semester as a music-education major at Marshall. He’s excited he already has something stable to look forward to — marching band.

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