For many, college life is the first taste of real freedom. Students work hard and play hard and the long winter break is like a beacon. But for Jordyn Gualdani ’14 (formerly Alyssa Gualdani), a transgender youth, winter break freshman year at Rochester Institute of Technology/ National Technical Institute for the Deaf was something to dread. While others might be preparing for a vacation with friends in Florida or a quiet couple weeks at home, Jordyn was feeling alone, lost, with no place to go.
Even before college, Jordyn’s home life was tough and the relationship with family was further complicated after Jordyn came out as transgender. As problems at home increased, Jordyn was searching for a way out. He left home and found himself in dangerous environments that many young adults in situations like his have to face. He needed help, but was not aware of the options available for young adults in the community. Making calls to local agencies generally resulted in being given a list of places that might be able to help, but with little guidance, and further phone calls, those calls often went nowhere.
College was the safest place for Jordyn. There he had safe housing, food, and healthcare on campus. Unfortunately, campus closing for winter break left Jordyn scrambling to find a place to stay. Jordyn was discovering that his age was a factor working against him when it came to local services. With home not an option, he reached out to try to report some of the crimes that had happened to him in hopes of finding placement in a housing program. The school decided he was an “at risk and trafficked youth.” With this determination, Jordyn was housed in a hotel room over the break. Without this service, Jordyn says he would not have survived that time in his life. As school went on, life got a little tougher with his health, the cost of supplies, bills, and balancing work and school.
Jordyn had a ton of responsibilities and one of the biggest was affording basic necessities. Finding it hard to make ends meet and stay focused on school, he had to find alternate ways to make money while working two jobs. Jordyn was introduced to some people outside his normal social circle and pushed into compromising situations and even some illegal activities. Despite reaching out for help, no one could explain what the options were for young adults such as him. In fact, many types of assistance exclude college students based on the assumptions that come from the model of the “traditional college student.”
Things started to take a positive turn when Jordyn passed the Registered Behavior Technician exam and started working for Autism Learning Partners. His health was still in the balance, but now he could afford an apartment and classes. At the same time, some professors began to demand additional time be spent outside of the designated class schedule in structured group activities. As a self-supporting student and a professional who did not have the luxury of a flexible schedule, school continued to be inaccessible and Jordyn never finished at RIT/NTID.
Jordyn went on to work with youth in Florida’s juvenile justice system. He, again, noticed that the system was underserving the young adult population and that little data exists on marginalized young adults. Often times, the crimes committed by young offenders was because of a lack of basic needs like food and a safe place to live. Many had a history of abuse and violence in the home that, in some cases, continued after the youth left home in forms of human trafficking, cult recruitment, and street violence. As Jordyn knows from experience, these circumstances push people to the brink and finding a safety net can seem impossible when you don’t know where to start.
Due to a medical condition, Jordyn is now back in Rochester and has been searching for accessible employment within his field. After evaluating his career path and seeing more and more youth going through the same trauma he did, Jordyn started a new business: Thrive Resources & Solutions. Thrive aims to provide services to young adults looking for help on a variety of levels: housing, food, jobs, counseling services, creating behavioral health plans, task management, LGBTQ advocacy and more. The goal of Thrive is to increase awareness of available assistance in the area and to secure these resources for the client. Jordyn is “trauma informed” and is making connections with local agencies that can help clients in a time of need.
Jordyn hopes to build community connections with other local agencies and is in the process of planning a program that will house homeless and at-risk college students in hotel rooms over the 2021-2022 winter break. This service made a difference in Jordyn’s life and he hopes to give the same opportunity to many more young adults. He would like to see an increase in data collection on marginalized young adults, their experiences, and the barriers they face as his experience is far from unique.
Jordyn has always felt the need to help people out of a crisis and continuously strives to give back to the community. With the launch of Thrive just a few weeks ago, he hopes to make a difference to young adults in the Rochester area.