Damien Harper

Damien-Harper---GTI came from a broken family and was raised by my grandmother until I was 14. I hardly ever went to school because I was a misguided child with no direction, but I managed to graduate from high school after an extra year. I thought, “Hey, I graduated from high school. That’s an accomplishment in itself, knowing that my mom and dad didn’t graduate.”

I learned about Year Up while talking with my guidance counselor about how to afford college. She had a son who went through the program and I decided to apply because I wasn’t doing anything with my life and I knew it was time to make a change. At Year Up, I learned applications like Microsoft Office Suite and how to speak and behave in a professional environment.

My greatest obstacles during my time at Year Up were events in my personal life. The house I had been staying in was being foreclosed and I would soon be homeless if I didn’t find a place of my own. Then, my mom’s house burned down, and the next house she moved into flooded. Soon after, my dad was diagnosed with diabetes, hepatitis, liver and kidney failure. I handled it by staying positive and realizing that dwelling on obstacles rather than striving to better myself wasn’t doing anything other than hurting me. Fortunately, the Year Up staff were all very helpful and encouraging. I overcame the challenges of the program by staying persistent, determined, and dedicated. I couldn’t and wouldn’t give up.

Staying positive despite obstacles helped me at my internship as a Consultant/Bank Teller at JPMorgan Chase. I gained many new skills, but the what stuck with me the most were Year Up’s core values; they helped me become comfortable with myself and build relationships with my co-workers on internship at JPMorgan Chase.

I knew I wanted to work for JPMorgan Chase full-time, and was thrilled to be hired upon graduation and then promoted to Personal Banker within two weeks. While training for my new position I won the MVP award, as voted on by my colleagues. It recognizes the most professional, friendly, and courteous trainee with the most product knowledge.

If I hadn’t found Year Up, I may not have been inspired or have the resources to get my own apartment and job, or work towards getting into college. Now, I feel that my role in the Opportunity Movement is to fill the seat I’ve left behind at Year Up. I would love to see others succeed with this great opportunity.