I was proud to be the first person in my household to go to college. However, when I returned from my first year of college, I saw that the house that I grew up in had been foreclosed on and that my father, who had raised my sister and me after we lost our mother to breast cancer, was now working a job out of state to afford our new apartment. I decided to take a semester off and worked as a waitress at a sports bar. Although my family was my biggest supporter, I was my biggest critic and knew that I was not truly happy with my decision.

When I decided to return to college, it wasn’t easy to get back on track. I was getting discouraged about my future and felt my life slipping through my fingers. What was I to do without a degree? I heard about Year Up and knew it was an opportunity I couldn’t afford to pass up.

From that point, there was nothing that could discourage me. I wanted to provide for myself and I knew I had to change the way I approached each day. Year Up taught me that, with proper focus, I was capable of anything. I used to quit things before finishing them, but at Year Up I overcame that tendency. While I was in training, we lost my aunt, and my family was suffering. Overwhelmed by the loss and the intensity of the workload, I was afraid I would fail. But instead of dwelling on my stress, I channeled this energy in a positive direction by focusing on completing the program.

I was the first intern from Year Up to join the Arby’s Restaurant Group Helpdesk Team, but my supervisor never treated me as “the intern.” I was able to remotely troubleshoot the restaurant’s point of sale systems and solve other software and hardware requests. I didn’t expect to hit the floor running and it was intimidating at first, but I asked questions and embraced learning. I was able to open up and develop wonderful relationships with people throughout the company.

Graduation was the end of Year Up and the beginning of a very different journey, a journey that now includes a full-time job at Arby’s as a Helpdesk Analyst and plans to re-enroll in college. Without Year Up, I would still be stuck in an unhappy place, looking for the opportunity to make a change in my life and to make a difference for the generations after me. I hope to inspire others to believe in themselves and live up to their full potential. Young adults are the future leaders of this country. If we don’t become the change we want to see, the world won’t evolve. We must all unite and bring out the best in each other.