DENVER — It has been eight years since Zoe Royer lost her parents, but her story of resiliency is still inspiring others.
On Dec. 27, 2011, Mark Royer shot and killed his ex-wife, Donna, in a McDonald’s parking lot in Parker.
“My dad killed my mom in front of me and my sister, then later killed himself,” Zoe explained.
Zoe was just 14 years old. Her sister was only 11. Their seemingly wonderful, suburban lives were forever changed.
Zoe says the sisters went from home to home, moving 13 times in four years. Zoe dropped out of school, faced homelessness and there were times she wanted to end her life.
“There were times I tried and ended up in mental hospitals,” she said.
But Zoe eventually got help and support. She went back to school and found her way out of the darkness.
The organization Hide in Plain Sight was founded to help students who have experienced homelessness continue their education. The group learned about Zoe through her school counselors and social workers. They offered to mentor Zoe and help pay for college.
“To have a total stranger reach out and say I was going to make something of myself, I started to believe in myself,” she said.
Zoe went on to graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver.
“Things have gotten so much better for me in so many ways,” she said.
She is now 22 and hoping to pay it forward. She uses her story to spread awareness about mental health, suicide prevention and homeless teens. She appears in public service announcements and has spoken on a panel for the state attorney general’s office.
Zoe still struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder, but she hopes her story will show others that life can get better.
“I’m happy to be where I am today and I’m looking forward to the future,” she said.
Zoe wants to continue working with nonprofits to help young people. She hopes to help shape mental health policy in Colorado.
She is considering grad school and getting her yoga certification.
She would like to teach yoga for PTSD or trauma therapy.
Zoe’s future also includes her sister, who now attends the University of Northern Colorado. They are still best friends who have promised to be there for each other.