I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to attend and graduate from Year Up Atlanta. My family moved to the United States when I was seven years old and I always wanted to prove that I deserve to work in the country that I love. Therefore, I gained a work permit.

Before being accepted into Year Up, I was juggling three jobs in order to manage my household and save for college. I realized I was getting nowhere fast and that something had to change if I was ever going to fulfill my dreams.

While building a gaming website, a friend noticed my interest in IT and started teaching me how to troubleshoot my PC and network. This sparked my passion for IT, so I began checking out job boards. That’s when I saw an ad for Year Up, which presented a great opportunity to get paid to learn. I spoke about it with my mother and she said, “If you think it’s worth it, try it. You have nothing to lose.”

At Year Up, learning new IT skills came naturally to me, but communicating professionally was a challenge. I was not comfortable giving presentations or speaking to groups, but the program encourages you to “get comfortable with being uncomfortable”. Being able to work on my communication skills really boosted my confidence as a professional. I gave the program my all and earned a 26-week internship at Southern Company as an IT Technician for the Engineer Construction and Services department. I was determined to contribute to my team and apply the skills I had learned.

As an intern, I learned how to image and troubleshoot software and provide excellent customer service to my clients. I expected the work to be challenging and for my skills to be tested. I was correct. One of the most important things I learned was to prepare for the unexpected technical issues and quickly resolve them. I continued to give my best effort of always learning on my internship. As a result, within three months of graduating from Year Up, Southern Company extended me a job offer as an IT Technician.

My Year Up experience has been life changing. I’ve started to save money again and with the coaching and encouragement from my manager and supervisor, I’m researching college programs that offer degrees in Computer Science. What has surprised me most is that something I picked up as a hobby could lead to not just a job, but a career. Like me, urban young adults want to do something with their lives. With the right opportunity and guidance, we too can reach for the stars.