gregwaltonMy life growing up was similar to many young black males in America today, and it’s sad. I was partially raised by a single mother dealing with her own issues of drug addiction, which led to me being a child bouncing around. I went through the foster care system, to living with other family members, to being on my own by the age of 17. I was still very immature, lacking guidance, support, confidence, and most of all love. This led to a life, again, similar to many other young black males in this country. Run ins with the justice system, focused on women or video games more than education. Sure, I wasn’t all bad, and I actually accomplished a few things like graduating from high school and then going off to college. But I lacked direction and focus on what was important.

It wasn’t until I hit a real low point in my life that I got serious and started to reach out to people I knew cared about me, seeking that help and guidance to try to live and lead a better life. This led me to Year Up, where they helped me work on myself and nurtured the skills I had while challenging me to work on my weaknesses. I began to be around other young people on this same journey, with similar obstacles to overcome but with a similar drive to want better for themselves, their families, and their community. This would be my new-found network and was the foundation that helped catapult me to new heights.

At Year Up, I learned technical and professional skills, and earned an internship at cMarket, Inc. With the experience and additional skills I gained there, I was able to land a full-time job at MIT working in the Information Services & Technology department.

Now, at 27, I’m a married man, proud father, home owner, employee at one of the world’s most coveted educational institutions (MIT), first alum of the Year Up program on its National Board of Directors, and a man dedicated to continuing to be a success for himself, his family, and his community. I share this not to brag, but to shed the light on what opportunity, support, hard work, and most of all Love can do in a young person’s life in this country.