jessicavidesI felt like I was becoming a disconnected urban youth statistic – and not going anywhere. But I now know I am just the opposite. I am not that statistic. I am successful.

Before attending Year Up, I was not doing much with my life. I dropped out of high school to help take care of my sister’s kids while she was in prison, and got a job at a supermarket. I lost hope of going back to school.

After working only the holiday season one year, I knew that I had to make a change in my life. With all my friends putting their education on hold and having kids, I wanted to be the difference. I wanted to prove not only to myself but to all those around me that you don’t have to continue down this path of poverty and lack of education. I started a GED class, and a career manager there told me about Year Up.

I learned a lot during the program. I learned about computers, inside and out. I learned Microsoft office. I learned how to be a better professional. I learned what’s appropriate and inappropriate in a corporate environment. I learned how to be a better person, a team player and someone that people can depend on.

I interned at DreamBox Learning, an online adaptive math program. As an intern I worked closely with my supervisor to learn the systems the company and my department used. I quickly learned how to create activation code, how to upload or update student information in our system, and how to answer common questions.

I graduated August 1, 2012 from the Year Up program. It was my first official graduation. I felt really proud of myself and all that I accomplished.

I will use the skills I gained at Year Up for the rest of my life. My computer knowledge has expanded as well as my professional skills. The way I carry myself in public, the way I present myself to employers, the people I surround myself with are all things I have changed since I started the program. Being there has motivated me to continue my education. Year Up has helped me realize that I have potential to be what I want to be.

I want to pursue a degree in the medical field where I will use my knowledge of computers and computer software to change the community. I expect to continue to pave the way for future Year Up students, and to show everyone what someone from my background is capable of achieving.

We can’t change who our parents are or the zip code we were raised in, but with an opportunity like Year Up we can make a change for our futures and for those who are walking the same paths we walked not so long ago.