jamesgriffI was raised in an environment where all I’d seen was hardship. I really didn’t know what my plans were or what I would I amount to. Then, at the age of 19 I had a son. I now had another life that I was responsible for, and any choices that I made in my life would not only affect me, but my son as well. I wanted to make a better life for him, but no matter how hard I tried and worked, things never got better. Everything seemed like a road to nowhere.

Despite my frustration, I still had high expectations for myself. I wanted to go back to school and work hard to start a career. I called my uncle to get advice on what I should do next and he told me about Year Up. I decided to apply because it sounded like a good opportunity and I respected the mission and outreach of the program.

At Year Up, I learned the art of presentation, communication, customer service, leadership, and the importance of seeing a project through until the end. I saw how having a large and diverse network of connections opens many doors. I had a lot of support from family, friends, and the Year Up staff. My advisor was an excellent mentor. He helped me map a path to get to where I want to be in life. The hardest part for me was being away from my son, but I handled it by remembering that he was my reason for being at Year Up. Being a father motivated me to work harder and be more dedicated to everything that I do.

The technical and business skills I gained at Year Up helped me get an internship at FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority). What I love most there is that every day is different. I now work at FINRA full time as a Desktop Support Specialist and I am also enrolled in the Marketing program at Prince George’s Community College. My plans are to graduate and to start a small business while still continuing my career in technology. I‘m going to keep learning and growing to create the best life I can for myself and for my son.

The most important thing I have learned on this journey is that it takes hard work and dedication to be successful and that you have to lead by example. Everyone has it in them to be great; you just need someone to show you the way. Year Up changes lives by connecting us to opportunities, then providing the skills and support needed to achieve our full potential. I would like to teach my son what I’ve learned about professionalism and how it can open doors. I want him to see that hard work and dedication always pay off in the end.