My Story As A 'Youth Opportunity'
Insights from a troubled youth to successful adult.
I remember the first week I started work here at Goodwill San Antonio. Touring the various facilities left me feeling overwhelmed and impressed at the scope of programs offered. Coming from real estate marketing, the non-profit sector was completely new to me. My hope was I could finally be a part of positive change that truly gave back to others.
Walking through the halls I met others like myself. Individuals who were not handed a privileged life, but had worked hard to achieve personal success. Moreover, they supported team members from all walks of life. Never ashamed of my journey in life I mentioned I attained my GED prior to college to the CFO, David Dauphine during our introduction. With a big smile and open arms he said, “Oh that’s awesome! You’re part of our mission.”
Those word stuck with me, in the best way. Part of our mission.
For once I was not measured by my affluence, influence, or educational notoriety. Instead I was part of something bigger than myself, willing to see me as a whole person.
As a youth I grew up in less than ideal circumstances sown from generational, circumstantial, and economic disadvantages. From farther behind the starting line (metaphorically speaking) than most children launch their lives from, I struggled to keep up in a world that was often confusing. Why did people lie and hurt one another? Fraught with discord, real world concepts were not discussed in my house growing up.
During the summer of 8th grade I slid away from being a child. The lure of friends living lives I longed for was too strong. Unlike at home where we did not have a car, computer, or cable - my friends seemed so interesting. They knew about things I’d never heard of. Concepts like sexuality, drugs, and pop culture were completely foreign to me. These things were talked about openly and I learned from my peers what later I wished an adult would have taught me.
As I grew older it was easy to blame my mom for the harsh truths the streets taught me. It was not until much later, long after graduating college, that I realized my mom had faced even greater barriers. Raising three children alone, fighting a system that was not designed to help women, she fought to lift us a high as she could. With the odds stacked against us, for me, it seems like the life I reflect on now was lived by someone else. In any case, without her I absolutely would not be where I am today. The sacrifices she made are truly impressive.
As a fourteen year old, all of those things were beyond my understanding. With my new circle of friends, a blossoming drug habit, and a new adventure of social skills to navigate — I entered my freshman year. In contrast to my earlier years, school didn’t hold the intrigue of learning new things.The large campus crushed with new people and overwhelmed my senses. The din of noise and conversation in the halls left me disoriented. Looking back, I wish someone would have offered me the coping skills, emotional intelligence, and social coaching I needed to succeed.
As an adult I have thought back many, many times to those days. If only someone would have told me I could have been anything - a doctor, a business owner - anything. More than just that, I wish I would have known the implications success, or failure, meant for my future. Not just the typical scare tactics, but real coaching and long-term planning. What if I had known to lay the foundation for a successful career in high school? What struggles could I have avoiding had I known then some of the marketing strategies I’m now so fluent in? I could have been anything. It would take me 20 more years to breach the door to understanding my true potential.
It was a long, slow process of gaining ground little by little. I cut ties to everyone from my past and moved across the country to attend a college in Chicago. Life brought me back to San Antonio where I secured my first professional job making less than 7 dollars per hour. At 23 I had my first, and only, child. As single parent I fought even higher to achieve for my son the life I know my mother had wanted for us. I wanted to break the cycle.
From one job to the next I grew, absorbed as much knowledge as I could, and diversified my skill set. Each career move along the way there were key people who mentored me and forced me to make tough changes. Hard lessons abounded and the financial struggles were immense.
Today I can look back at those very hard days and be proud of how far I’ve come. I wish I would have had access to the programs like the ones that exist today. Going forward, my hope is to spread awareness and incite passion for positive change.
It is truly arriving full circle now that I have the opportunity to help others like myself. There are young folks who have every ability to succeed but are simply not afforded the same support systems. We can cultivate a stronger and more successful community by embracing our city’s youth. Preventing needless struggles, curbing drug addiction, and fostering the growth of successful adults starts with empowering San Antonio’s youth.
To learn more about how you can be a part of positive change in the community, particularly our city youth, visit Goodwill San Antonio and NXT Level Youth Opportunity Center here:
Empowering young folks to succeed is possibly THE MOST important thing we can do to help elevate our community.