terrencethompsonAt the end of July 2013, I was enrolled at Indiana University Northwest and on what I thought was the final day of my internship at Aon Corporation. I was packing up to leave when the department vice president came by and told me I had been hired—full time.

Two years earlier, I was at Southern Illinois University (SIU) expecting to make the Dean’s List, when my mother was diagnosed with lupus, an autoimmune disease that makes it difficult for her to take care of our family. I was already working to support myself and now I was also responsible for helping to support my younger brother and sister. That began to be more of a priority than my education. My lack of focus caused my grades to fall and I was academically dismissed from SIU.

I returned home and for a time, I felt helpless. My life had changed so much. Then my best friend DyKiesha, who was a Year Up graduate, told me about the program. She and I had similar career goals, so I thought that Year Up would be a great fit for me. Aside from learning more about professional skills, I learned a lot about myself at Year Up. I realized that I was more confused than I thought and needed to change. I had to practice being more assertive and find my life balance. But it was stressful having to learn a lot in so little time. From day one, a Year Up staff member connected with me and gave me the time management tools that helped me achieve a 3.83 GPA at Harold Washington College and receive the Presidential Scholar Award.

The most important thing I learned on my internship was to go into every situation with an open mind. I had expected Aon to be very conservative, but it was much more laid back, where everyone has a great sense of humor. My internship at Aon was in strategic sourcing, where I did data entry and ran monthly reports, helped plan meetings and events and worked on trade show logistics.

When I graduated from Year Up this year, I was proud that I had stuck with something and came out better than before. And, I was happy to see how proud my mother was. Now, I am working 35 hours a week at Aon and hoping to earn a degree in computer information systems with a minor in business at Indiana University Northwest by December 2015.

I used the opportunity Year Up gave me, turned it into full time job at Aon and have come to be a role model for others who need motivation to gain a better life. Urban young adults are figuring out how to positively help the communities and world we live in. All we need is the chance to learn, follow and lead. Invest in us because all of us are gold mines waiting to be discovered! We are the future!