When I started Year Up I was 20 years old, and I lived on the Upper West Side in Harlem. I grew up with my mom, who raised four kids by herself. I never had a father; the only time he came around was to argue with my mother. My stepfather was in jail most of the time.
I was 14 years old when my mom passed away. That completely threw me off… It was like, “That’s it.” I closed out the whole world. Before then, I was an average student – never at the top of the class, of course. After my mom passed away I was at the bottom of the class most of the time…all of the time. I did not graduate from high school; I got my GED. College never went through my mind, not once.
My priority was to work and get money now, that’s what I thought back then. I worked in a furniture factory in Rhode Island. Moving furniture back and forth through the warehouse, it got to a point where I would come home with my back hurting. I was only 20 years old, my back wasn’t supposed to be hurting.
I spoke to my brother, and he told me about this program called Year Up. I said no; I was like, “What, a program? Come on!” He told me, “You have literally nothing to lose.” I wasn’t going to school, I wasn’t working; I had nothing.
Everybody at Year Up was so supportive. I never, ever had that. My tech instructor wanted us to have that spark for technology. My business communications instructor, he loved grammar so much that it rubbed off on me. Every other word out of my mouth was slang – not anymore! I was extremely shy when I came in. Now I’m always raising my hand. If the teacher wanted somebody to present first; I’d be up there, ready to go.
If you would have told me a couple of years ago that I would be interning at American Express, helping VPs, I would never in a million years believe you. Where I grew up it’s unheard of for somebody to work in a Fortune 500 company. After graduating, I was hired as a Technical Assistant at American Express Executive Solution Global Services, and since then I’ve been promoted to Senior Technician. I support the leaders of the company – right up to the CEO. I fix computers – software, hardware and network-related issues – and am also responsible for sharing expertise, training, and overall oversight in implementing new hardware and software products. It’s problem solving, and I love problem solving.
Coming to Year Up was the best decision I have ever made. Without Year Up, I don’t know what I would be doing right now. This program is seriously, seriously a life-saver.