Jameela Roland

Business Operations Associate

Year Up Puget Sound

Class of January 2017

For two months, my mother, dog, and I were homeless, bouncing between relatives and motels. I was working to support us, with one goal: to survive. The thing about surviving, however, is that it is vastly different from thriving. This was my wakeup call. I wanted the richness of life that comes with secure employment in a career that encourages growth—I wanted to thrive.

I heard about Year Up after graduating high school, but I wrote it off, convinced that the only way I could succeed in life was with a college degree. Firm in my belief, I bounced around community colleges, but was lost in the crowd, unable to find the support I needed to make it work. I felt like someone had shown me the door to success, but hidden the key. After seven years, I realized that the traditional college route might not be for me. I was giving 110 percent, but I was in debt, disappointed, and exhausted. When my sister reminded me about Year Up, I realized I had a lot to lose, but even more to gain. I had one opportunity and do what I hadn’t: thrive.

From the beginning, Year Up was more than a training opportunity—it was a movement. Year Up staff took the time to get to know me and my goals, to laud my strengths and bring focus to my growth areas. They taught me what it takes to navigate a corporate environment, not just as an entry-level contributor, but as a young black woman moving into a realm dominated by older white men.

Following training, I earned an internship at Microsoft where I found a team dedicated to helping me achieve my goals and grow my professional presence. The huge opportunity Microsoft provided was beyond exciting. I was impressed by how tirelessly Microsoft works towards diversity and inclusion, to ensure their workforce is representative of the communities they serve. I helped to inspire the company’s workforce by creating videos that showcase what Microsoft is doing to transform their processes from technical to cultural.

After graduation, I was offered a job at Microsoft. I’m currently working as a Business Operations Associate for Microsoft’s IT Showcase team, where I’m proud to represent talented Opportunity Youth and Microsoft’s commitment to recruiting and retaining diverse talent. With college credits under my belt from Year Up partner Bellevue College, I’ll be continuing my education with a fresh perspective and a clear goal.

The one constant in my life has been a hunger for something more. With Year Up, I joined a movement to help close the Opportunity Divide and lift others up to reach their full potential. I gained a network that understands my struggles and supports me in finding solutions. And most importantly, I made the choice to learn to thrive—it was the best decision I have ever made.