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Jazmin Melo Receives First YSS Collegiate Recovery Scholarship

Jazmin MeloMany addicts hit rock bottom before they seek help. For Jazmin Melo, rock bottom was waking up in the hospital after a six-month bender, not knowing how she got there.

A first-generation American, Jazmin grew up pushing herself to be the best in school and activities. She thrived on making herself proud, but struggled to cope when she fell short. At age 11, Jazmin first recognized signs of mental health issues.

“As I got older, it became clearer that these mental disorders were not something I would eventually grow out of,” Jazmin says. “Still, I was optimistic and motivated to reach my goals.”

But then the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Schools closed and activities were canceled. At the time, Jazmin was living with her older sister, and—bored at home, with little to keep her accountable—she began drinking. Her sister also struggled with substance abuse, and they enabled each other.

Jazmin explains she didn’t fear alcohol like she did “harder drugs,” which fueled her self-assurance that she was not an addict.

“I thought I was just being a teenager; I saw my friends doing it,” she says. But then Jazmin noticed things slipping away: her motivation, her goals. School had always been a point of pride, but now she was missing assignments and failing classes.

Everything culminated one night when she blacked out. After finding herself in the hospital, Jazmin had her first moment of clarity in a long time. She knew she needed help.

Jazmin was referred to YSS’s Residential Addiction Treatment Program. The only one in Iowa with a gender-responsive focus, the program helps girls develop coping skills, improve self-esteem and confidence, build healthy relationships, and feel valued. Although scared at first, Jazmin says the staff and other girls were welcoming and immediately made her feel at home.

“The good thing about rehab is you’re forced to think about everything that happened, and you have people there who don’t judge you and are ready to help,” Jazmin says. “I was so sad I had done this to myself, but the feeling soon turned into motivation.”

After completing the program, Jazmin returned home and enrolled at Mercy College in Des Moines. This fall, she became the first-ever recipient of the YSS Collegiate Recovery Scholarship, which was created by Mary Ann and Jim Black, a long-time YSS donor and member of the YSS Corporate Board of Directors, to support YSS alumni as they pursue higher education.

With the help of the scholarship, Jazmin now has financial support as she works toward her goal of becoming a registered nurse.

“Jazmin had a minor setback, she overcame it, and now she’s supporting others and going into healthcare,” Black says. “We hope she will continue to take positive steps forward and contribute to the community. That’s what we’re trying to achieve with this scholarship.”

“I know this feeling of being excited to go to school and accomplish my goals is not something that I ever want to trade,” Jazmin explains. “I want to stay sober so I can continue to live happily.”

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