Circumstances can defer dreams. That’s the case for many young adults in North Texas.

One organization in Dallas is working to change the trajectory of young peoples’ lives one year at a time.

In high school, Marcia Lashley knew she wanted to do something. She just wasn’t sure what or how. Her father died in 2014 and she felt the weight of the pressure to succeed for her mother and brother.

She said she would often ask herself two critical questions.

“What do I want to do with my life? How am I going to provide for my family?” said Lashley.

She said there were even naysayers who doubted she had a bright future.

“And I was like ‘ok well I’ll show you because I’m going to find a way and I know that I can make it in life,’” she said.

The now 20-year-old found an option that would help her make good on that promise.

It’s called Year Up, an organization that provides free training in technology and business for young adults between the ages 18 to 24. These are people who have been overlooked, had a rough start in life, or come from low to middle-income families.

Eduvijes Perez is Director of operations and strategic planning. She said Year Up gives young people a hand up that they wouldn’t otherwise have.

“Our young adults are coming from families where they are the first to go to college. They don’t have families that are operating and working on corporate America,” said Perez. “We know that talent is equal, but opportunity is not.”

In one intense year, young adults get job training, internships, a weekly stipend and college credit.

“We have a lot of corporate partners that are coming in and we want to make sure that they are having a workforce that can span the growth that they will have here in Dallas,” said Perez.

Year Up Dallas/Fort Worth is housed at El Centro College in downtown Dallas. Nationally, Year Up has served more than 24,000 young adults since its founding in 2000. Roughly 4,700 young adults across 25 cities completed the program in 2019.

The goal is to focus on personal and professional development through the one-year intensive program.

“I thought I wasn’t going to be able to go through it because I thought ‘Oh a girl from Pleasant Grove. How can I be in the corporate environment?” said Lashley.

But she succeeded in the program, and so did 25-year-old Leemar Kelley.

“I’m not sure where I would be because before the program I was working a retail job with a future that didn’t seem too bright,” said Kelley.

With exposure to companies like Capitol One, New York Life and Amazon, Kelley’s trajectory changed. He’s now a full-time college student at UNT.

“I’m surrounded by people who are wanting to do better for themselves, wanting to help everyone around them,” he said.

Ultimately, it’s about changing lives and communities.

“What I would love for our young adults to walk away with is the power of their voice and their talent,” said Perez.

“It’s going to be great. From here on out it’s going to be just great,” she said.

A little less than half will transition into jobs with the companies that provide internships. For more information on Year Up Dallas/Fort Worth, click here.

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