My parents always said, “Mija queremos que tengas un futuro mas bueno de lo que te emos ofrecido,” or, “we want you to have a better future than what we could have offered you in Mexico.” They sacrificed everything they had to give me a better, though uncertain, future. However, the language barrier impeded their ability to guide me through the American dream. I had to learn how to set my own path at a young age, as I have always felt it is my duty to honor their sacrifice.

I worked hard at school, and when my junior year of high school came, I was excited to get ready for college. One day, the teacher asked about FAFSA. Nobody had told me that I was ineligible for the FAFSA. That changed everything, as it meant I had to pay out of pocket for college. My dreams were crumbling around me.

In 2012, President Obama introduced the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which allowed me to work. I got a job at a deli to make ends meet, but every day, the gap continued to grow between me and my dreams. I was tired of working for someone else’s dream and not my own, but that 5 A.M. shift was the difference between having food to eat and none at all.

One day, I saw a Year Up advertisement reading, “A Year to a Career.” I took a leap of faith and with new resolve, set out to change my life. I knew my grit was going to be valued somewhere.

And it was. At Year Up, I learned the importance of networking and building my professional brand. As the start date of my internship approached, I was learning how to use my time effectively.

As an intern at JPMorgan Chase I learned the importance of being reliable. I quickly realized that JPMorgan Chase was where I wanted to grow my career. Networking with colleagues in the technology department was an opportunity to share my story—and opened the door to a new role. I was hired as a Technology Operations Technician prior to graduation.

A year ago, I was expected to fail. Now, I will be majoring in Communications at Harold Washington College, and I am the first in my family to step foot into a Fortune 500 company. Once I get my Bachelor’s Degree, I hope to become an even greater asset to JPMC and empower others to take advantage of opportunities like Year Up. I also plan to stay involved with Year Up’s Alumni Association and the Women’s Empowerment group.

Year Up gave me an alternative route, with continuous opening doors. Now the dreams that once seemed so far away are within my grasp. It was by far the toughest year of my life, but the reward is everlasting.