Becoming a Year Up student was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Michael-Baldwin-1---GTCollege wasn’t an option for me because my father was unemployed, and my mother was fighting a trial that would lead to her incarceration. I had to work to support my family and there was no way around that. I was making a comfortable living at TD Bank. Still, I knew I would need to enhance my professional development by gaining skill-sets that would take me to the next level.

A friend who saw a 60 Minutes segment about Year Up told me about the program. One week later, I was accepted. I quickly saw the value in Year Up and I appreciated the learning and development phase, which allowed me to see the potential within myself. I instantly started putting in my best effort. Throughout the program, I dealt with a lack of external support, low finances, estranged living arrangements, and a fear of failing, but the program created a supportive environment by providing an outlet where we could lean on each other for guidance.

Through this support I learned how to acknowledge the leadership of others. I initially received feedback that I didn’t always listen to the concerns of my peers. This was hard feedback for me to hear and accept, but, by opening my eyes to my areas of growth, I have become a true professional and a better leader.

At my internship with the Accounts Payable and Payroll team at Comcast NBC Universal, I learned that I could perform as well as full-time associates. I did much more than crunch numbers. Being a naturally outspoken person, I was able to grow as a leader by quickly identifying issues or concerns and collaborating with my peers, staff, and proper leadership to address them. Through this experience, I gained a great network and learned how to work through pressure. After graduating, I interned with Comcast’s University Relations Team focusing on creating a pipeline of talent from colleges and universities. Today, I am an Ambassador for Year Up Philadelphia’s Advisory Board and working at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia as a Scheduler in the cardiology department, managing patient medical records and policy infrastructure.

I am beyond grateful for Year Up and the opportunity I have been afforded through my hard work. I was brave enough to take a chance and blessed to see its conclusion.

I plan to run for office someday so that I can personally ensure the success of the youth that follow behind me. Potential comes in all shades, from all walks of life, and from every neighborhood. I advocate for Year Up on a daily basis. Being a part of this program exposed the value that my classmates and I can add, not only to a company, but also to our communities and to the world.

Read “A student speaks out: What will the next president do for inner city families?” where Michael is featured in The 74 article.