“When I came here (to The Salvation Army Independence Corps) I was starting off high school. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to finish high school because I was homeless. I was losing it all. People were asking me why I was coming to school on a different bus than everyone else and I was trying to keep it hidden.”
When Mark was 14, he, his mother and two brothers lived at our family shelter for six months. While living in the shelter, Mark began volunteering next door at our After School Program. He found that his volunteer efforts greatly impacted his work ethic in high school, and in athletics.
“Working here with the kids, it lifted my spirits a little bit. And they said they started looking up to me. I didn’t want to fail them.”
Mark credits former Salvation Army Independence Major Butch Frost, and the kids at the After-School Program, for inspiring him to complete high school. He went on to be the first-ever in his family, followed by his younger brother, to graduate high school.
“The Salvation Army, as you can tell, has had a big impact on my life,” he said. “They kept me safe in a shelter. They opened ways for me to graduate high school. First to graduate high school. First to attend college.”
Mark current attends the University of Central Missouri and is studying sports medicine.
“I want to become a physical therapist, or a sports athletic trainer. When I played sports I was very injury prone, so I thought maybe I can help people recover better because when I did, I got right back up and started playing again. I want to help people rehabilitate right.”
He still finds time to spend with the kids at our After-School Program every day, and has also worked at our Three Trails Summer Camp for kids.
“Growing up as a child, I never had a birthday party. When I worked there, they threw me my own birthday party. It wasn’t even my birthday at all it was July 11th, my birthday is April 11th. So we called it my ‘Quarter Birthday.’ They knew I loved batman, so they gave me a batman piggy bank full of quarters. And that was my first birthday party. And I cried like a baby…and I don’t cry.”
Mark plans to graduate college next year and has a full-time physical therapy job lined up. He is grateful for support from The Salvation Army and the community in Independence, both which have helped him along his journey.
“I really am very lucky. I have people who care about me too much.” #StoriesOfHope