My life before Year Up was pretty rough. My parents were between jobs and struggling with money when we got evicted from our small two-bedroom apartment. This resulted in me pulling double shifts at a fast food restaurant to save and help out.

My father heard about Year Up from a co-worker and passed the information on to me. I knew it wouldn’t be a cakewalk, but if I remained committed to the program, I could achieve a positive outcome.

The most important thing I learned at Year Up was that I need to put myself in a position to take advantage of any opportunity. Year Up made me realize I could turn any situation into something remarkable. One of my greatest challenges, a turning point for me at Year Up, was when I received a 4 during an evaluation when I felt I deserved a 10. I cried because I had worked tirelessly to achieve a perfect score. It was hard to accept then, but that experience showed me that there is always room for improvement. My instructors and mentors pushed me to become a better leader and find ways to connect with others around me.

I know now that the high expectations to which Year Up held me accountable were necessary for my personal and professional growth. I continued to push myself through training and earned an internship at WestRock (formerly known as Rocktenn), one of the country’s top manufacturers of consumer packaging. As a Financial Analyst intern, I worked with accountants who specialize in the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a federal law that helps prevent accounting fraud. I learned to aim for perfection because you never know who will view your work. This became true for me when I worked with the CEO and Senior Vice Presidents on some projects.

As my internship came to an end, my plan was to secure full-time employment. Rocktenn’s Chief Accounting Officer valued my work ethic and helped me get hired in IT as a Help Desk Representative. After a year or so, I transitioned to VC3 working as a Systems Engineer. In addition, my own company, The Future Entrepreneur Chamber of Commerce is doing very well. I have also recently become a homeowner. After struggling with my family, I feel proud to have secured a stable living environment. I’m now working with Year Up to ensure the route to homeownership is paved for other alumni who demonstrate the program’s core values.

I would like urban young adults to know that you don’t have to accept the common misperception that we are destined to become drug dealers, athletes, or entertainers. My role in the Year Up movement is to lead by example and show others like me that anything is possible. I plan to assist other young adults in not only EARNING a job, but also CREATING jobs.