Oneyda Escobar

Year Up Providence Graduate

Quédate en la escuela y trabaja duro. These are two statements that my mom and dad repeated over and over while I was growing up: stay in school and work hard. My mom and dad grew up in El Salvador and had to give up their education to work before the age of 12. Because of their sacrifices, I have always taken school very seriously.

I’ll never forget the day that I got into the University of Rhode Island. I was extremely excited. It seemed that not only my dream had come true, but the dream of my entire family.

Just when I thought everything was going well, I received a financial aid letter from URI stating that it was a mistake that I had received financial assistance. I didn’t qualify due to my immigration status, and I had to pay back a total of $11,000. My mom and I hopped from bank to bank, only to be turned down. Eventually, it hit me that I wouldn’t be able to return to school. All of my hopes had been crushed.

This resulted in me having to put my education to the side to find a job. And with just a high school diploma, I couldn’t find any job with a career path. I was stuck in dead-end jobs for three years.

That’s when I stumbled upon Year Up. I was looking for a job when my cousin told me about a program you get college credits for and you get paid for attending. I said, “Wow, that sounds way too good to be true.” When I received the letter of acceptance in the mail, I felt a great sense of relief and hope. This was the opportunity I needed to make my dream a reality again.

Year Up was the most intensive educational opportunity I’ve encountered. I had to push myself further than ever before. We had many long nights trying to finish essay after essay, studying for certifications, working on our business plans, and overcoming many years of self-doubt.

I consider myself so lucky to have interned at Covidien, and I’m so grateful that they hired me as a helpdesk analyst. I troubleshoot with end users about connecting to the VPN, logging into the AS/400 and EMNET systems and going through hundreds of tickets a day. A year ago all this would have been a foreign language, but today it’s what I do for a living, and I love it.

In the end, all my hard work and dedication is paying off. I have the confidence and skills to overcome any and all challenges. I honestly believe that there should be more Year Up sites because Year Up is truly closing the Opportunity Divide for many young adults. Thank you, Year Up.

Oneyda Escobar graduated from Year Up Providence in July 2010. She was hired by Covidien as a Helpdesk Analyst after her internship there, and is still with the company.