How unconditional support from Year Up is helping Marisa persevere during unprecedented times

Marisa Desjarlais, a Program Administrator Intern at Fidelity Investments, and her Year Up mentor

When you look at me, you see a happy, flourishing, motivated girl with the world in her hands. You assume I have had a life of optimistic turns and bends of certainty. I would like to say—now—I see that too; but it wasn’t always that way.

When I was younger, I lived with my single mother and my two younger brothers in a household far from a “home.” We moved from apartment to apartment and switched schools so many times I lost count; dodging unpaid rent and utility payments until the lights went out and it was time to move again…and again. This is the life of a child living with a drug addicted parent with a mindset of doing what is best for their own wants and needs. Being the eldest, I always seemed to understand more than my younger siblings, and as I got older, I realized that the life we were living wasn’t normal. Living with a parental figure with an impaired view of life was the first eye-opener I had to how unfair this world truly could be. I was put into situations and saw things no child should ever have to—and now being a mother myself, I made a promise that I would always put my child first. Every morning I wake up I make sure she will never feel the uncontrollable emotions and angst that I was forced to.

Marisa continuing to learn and grow on internship while working from home

I moved out when I was 17 and I got my own apartment. My brothers moved into family members’ houses, but I felt like a burden to them seeming that they weren’t in the best position to take on another responsibility. I got a waitressing job and a roommate, and I paid my own bills. Years later, I ended up meeting the father of my child, a guy who really showed me the way I was supposed to be treated. Today, we have our own home and a beautiful daughter; I thought that was all I ever wanted. I had no education besides high school (which was a miracle in itself that I finished), so waitressing was the only thing I felt comfortable pursuing. I felt stuck and started feeling like I wasn’t progressing, taking care of my daughter all day and working every night just to be able to afford the life I knew she deserved. I never really enjoyed getting to spend time as a family.

The day I found out about Year Up, I applied and was accepted within a week; I had no idea what I had just signed up for! I had no idea that my life was about to change in so many ways, so quickly. One of Year Up’s mottos is “high expectations, high support,” and this could not be any truer. I have experienced firsthand what motivation, determination, and unwavering support can really do to your life in such a short time frame. This program has literally given me every tool I could possibly need to be successful—from clothes, to education, to pure self confidence in myself. They have provided me with a chance to better myself for my daughter and my family. I will be forever grateful to this program—it has single-handedly changed my life!

I am halfway through my internship phase now and feel like a completely different person than who I was when I started. Year Up is so much more than meets the eye. It has easily been the best decision and life-changing factor I have ever experienced, and I am proud to say that I will soon be a Class 30 Year Up graduate! I will have a meaningful career and be the example I have always wanted to be for my daughter! Anyone can grow and be the person they aspire to be—sometimes they just need that extra support that they never really had the opportunity to have.

Even with a global pandemic occurring, Year Up is still managing to offer that high level of support it always has. They have done everything possible to make sure our learning and lives as students, interns, and real people are impacted as little as possible. I am grateful to have the opportunity to work from home and still be able to continue my growth!

I feel blessed and grateful to have a stipend right now in times where people are not able to work. We still have class every Wednesday morning (virtually), so it is keeping me sane having that small amount of normalcy. Although my boyfriend and daughter are all I need for mental support, Year Up makes it known that they are always there to talk, and offer unlimited resources to help with any hard times we are facing. From counseling, to transportation, to food—you name it—Year Up is always there to support you! COVID-19 is no match for the support and driven staff that this program offers! We are intelligent and capable people, and what we do not know, we are able to learn. One thing you will never forget when you finish this program: you’ve got this.

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