Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota

Success Stories

Stepping Stones: Sam

For Sam, things started to unravel at the age of eight. A native of northeast South Dakota, he was placed in treatment at a young age for negative behaviors and through a series of ups and downs ended up at the STAR Academy in Custer, South Dakota. "I failed a lot," he says.

After several years of this roller coaster, Sam was placed with Lutheran Social Services' Stepping Stones Program. There, he began learning what it means to take responsibility for himself. He learned to care for himself and received the encouragement he needed to get a job and begin taking classes at a nearby university. "He needed to go through those experiences," says Sheila Johnson, Stepping Stones program director. "He needed to buy a car, lose a job, get another job - he had to learn where the boundaries are."

LSS's Stepping Stones program in Rapid City opens opportunities for young people like Sam who need help with the transition to adulthood. Some are homeless. Others don't have a supportive family to help them learn how to be responsible adults. Based on local data, we believe there are up to 100 young people in the Rapid City area that are defined as homeless. Stepping Stones helps youth learn skills many take for granted: finding and keeping a job, managing money, arranging for transportation, grocery shopping, and cooking nutritious meals.

Today, Sam has been discharged from state custody and is living in his own apartment, holding down two jobs and going to college. Looking back on his experiences, Sam advises other teens to take a different path. "You think your life would be so much better if you were on your own," he says. "It's a lot harder than you think."

Sam has words for those who support Stepping Stones too: "You are changing lives."