If I hadn’t participated in Year Up, I would either be in jail or dead. Today I have a full-time job, I work in local politics, and I volunteer in my community.

My life before the program was surrounded by alcohol and violence. I was involved in gang activity, and I was hospitalized multiple times from violent altercations. I worked as a janitor for minimum wage, which wasn’t enough to pay my rent. I became homeless and spent months sleeping in parks or on friends’ couches. I was struggling, going through life without a plan. I didn’t have any goals or expectations of myself.

I thought there must be more to life than just working paycheck-to-paycheck, so I started to read philosophy, psychology, and self-improvement books. These books inspired me to turn my life around. I also decided to join a local community program to help remove the tattoos that covered the majority of my body and assist me in assimilating back into society. Through this program, I was introduced to Year Up.

Year Up was the opportunity I needed to excel in a career and develop as a professional. At Year Up l was taught the fundamentals and components of computer hardware and software. I also learned important skills like interviewing, networking, and giving presentations. My greatest challenge was learning to interact with individuals who held different viewpoints than me. It‘s definitely an art to be able to sit at a table with colleagues of contradicting personalities and choose to embrace our similarities.

My new knowledge and skills earned me an internship at eBay as an InfoSec Analyst. I was in charge of interacting with out-of-office hackers who would search for vulnerabilities in eBay’s website infrastructure. At the end of my internship, I networked with team leaders at eBay, and I found a position as a Quality Assurance Engineer. After about a year, I transitioned to designing front-end user interfaces for eBay and PayPal applications as a User Experience Designer. In the future, I plan to work full-time at eBay while going to school part-time at Mission College.

In addition to working at eBay, I served as a Campaign Manager for a local school board candidate I met at Year Up. He was a guest speaker I followed up with. I also work with the Silicon Valley Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as an Editor for their Festiv’All magazine. I believe it is my duty to be a strong advocate for Year Up, which is why I make it a point to go back to speak to every class that has come after me. I want to pave the way for future alumni in San Jose.

 

*Update: Peter Ortiz is currently a Web Designer/Developer at PayPal