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YOUTH PEER SUPPORT SPECIALIST | CLACKAMAS COUNTY

 

Carlos was born in Seattle, Washington to Kathleen Benson and her partner Marissa. Carlos has never met his biological “father" but did recently meet his half-sister. When he was very young, his moms separated, and Carlos spent a lot of time traveling between households. Carlos experienced feelings of sadness and entered therapy at a very early age. Eventually, his moms decided to move back in together to provide Carlos with a more stable home environment.

Carlos and his family soon relocated to Boston, Massachusetts, and although moving to a new place was exciting, Carlos had a hard time making friends. Shortly after he turned 10, Carlos’ birth mother Kathleen passed away. He took the loss hard and began struggling in school and at home. Carlos was also struggling to come to terms with his own identity as LGBT. He stopped going to class, turned to self-harm, and began abusing substances to cope with his emotions. Carlos continued to attend therapy and was in and out of hospitals and residential programs throughout high school.

Carlos moved to Portland to live with extended family in 2014 but continued to struggle with anxiety, depression, and substance abuse. At 18, after leaving home and moving in with friends, Carlos struggled to navigate the mental health, education, and public assistance systems on his own. In all, Carlos attended three different high schools in the tri-county area before graduating valedictorian of his class from Alliance High School at Benson.

Carlos began his career at On-the-Move, a local nonprofit that assists adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities (I/DD) in accessing meaningful activities in the Portland area. It was through working with the participants at On-the-Move that Carlos realized how his life experiences have helped him build positive relationships and empathize with others from all walks of life. He also worked for the Department of Human Services’ Stabilization and Crisis Unit, where he supported adults with I/DD experiencing acute crises.

Carlos found Youth Era searching for organizations that specifically support youth struggling in situations like those he faced as a teen. Now, he is ready and eager to provide support to young people in Clackamas County. Although he gained much independence early in his life, Carlos acknowledges that he could not have succeeded without the support of his friends, family, teachers, counselors, and peers. In addition to his role as a Youth Peer Support Specialist, Carlos actively engages in community coalitions including the Clackamas Coalition for Suicide Prevention, Sexual and Reproductive Health Clack Co, and Parents and Families of Lesbians and Gays in Clackamas County. 

In his free time, Carlos enjoys going to the movies, listening to music and podcasts, taking photographs, and exploring with friends. You might see Carlos around town with his rat terrier, Luna, who he recently adopted from the Oregon Humane Society.