I come from a family that has a hard time finishing what they start. My mom was off and on with her schooling, and when I was a child my dad would make promises he couldn’t always keep. As I grew up, I walked in their footsteps. In high school, I tried and quit many activities like football, gospel choir, the guitar and dancing. After one semester at Roxbury Community College I dropped out. I attended aviation school and did not finish. I was passing up every opportunity I had to succeed.

About three years and six jobs later, I found Year Up. Not through an ad, but at the café where I worked. A customer my age worked in the IT department for a company named Pegasystems. He had interned at the company through Year Up and they decided to hire him. He told me how Year Up paid him a stipend while he learned new skills. “Why didn’t I hear about this program five years ago?” I decided to apply. Living with my grandparents, working a low-income job, in debt and without a degree – I had to do something.

At Year Up, I was matched with an awesome advisor and the best mentor a man could have. I won three awards – two for leadership and one for overall excellence. The technical and professional skills I gained at Year Up set me up for an internship as a Junior Business Analyst at Cubist Pharmaceuticals. I thought I wanted to own a car shop. I never realized I’d be great in IT. I felt, for the first time in my life, that I had chosen the right path.

After graduating from Year Up, I moved to Orlando and started a job providing help desk support at ConvergEx. I was put on their number one account, NetApp, and worked hard to excel every day. My mentor at ConvergEx eventually left the company to work for NetApp, and reached out to me months later to join their team. I now work with the sales team as a Professional Service Engineer to help maximize their efficiency, specifically with storage and disaster recovery. I have been promoted eight times in eight months and travel around the country to work with organizations like the FAA and NSA. I think it’s pretty cool that I started as a Level 1 IT guy, and now I’m here.

Programs like Year Up are important because many of my peers want to do better, but don’t think they are good enough. Now I know that awareness is key, and success is a collective effort. It all comes down to opportunity. Not just getting one, but taking it.