Katona’s family moved a lot when she was a kid, which meant making friends was hard. After four or five times moving to a new place, getting close to people became a scary thing.
As a teen, her family moved to a community with United Way supported programs where she worked in a daycare, received homework help and even went on summer canoe trips. It was through these programs that Katona gained mentors that not only supporter her but pushed her to go further than she ever thought she could to get “amazing” grades.
Katona says that was able to both laugh and cry through life’s tougher times with her “agency mom”, a mentor at one of the programs she attended. Eventually, she opened up again and started making new connections. In Katona’s words, “You’re welcome from the jump. You get shown love.”
When her mom told her they would be moving again, Katona decided that she would stay behind in the place she now calls home.
At 18, Katona works as a community engagement outreach worker helping young people get connected to the same sorts of programs and services that changed her life for the better. She plans to use the leadership and time management skills she’s learned through United Way supported programs to attend college in the fall.
Katona believes that her transition to adulthood is going smoother thanks to the programs she attended and the mentors she worked with. “They all gave me tiny bits of themselves”.