April 22, 2019

An innovative program opens doors to high-wage jobs through skills training

The nonprofit Year Up is helping to close the opportunity gap for young adults in need.

Year Up helps young adults move from minimum wage jobs to meaningful careers in one year.

Editor’s note: Year Up is a nonprofit that works to bridge the opportunity divide by providing young people in need with professional training and resources necessary to kickstart a career. In the coming weeks, we will share a series of essays from Year Up alumni on how the program has impacted their lives. Allstate is a corporate partner to Year Up.

Seven years ago I would have never thought I’d be a self-taught software engineer, public speaker, event organizer, and mentor. I believe this was made possible by the organization Year Up. Not only did Year Up take me out of poverty, the program opened doors for me that I never imagined walking through. Before, I was a young, homeless single mom staying in a women’s transitional shelter. Today, I have a successful career and can comfortably afford to pay market rent while providing a life for my two young boys without the help of government assistance. I had the opportunity to defy the odds that were against me. Instead of being another statistic, I am earning the income and life my family and I deserve.

In 2013, I discovered the program that would change my life. I was going through a very rough time. I had just had a baby boy and was struggling to take control of my new life as a mother and all the responsibilities that accompanied this new journey. I didn’t know what career field I wanted to pursue, I just knew I didn’t want to rely on a minimum wage retail job to provide for my son. I was beginning to get discouraged when my cousin told me about a program called Year Up that he was enrolled in and told me that not only did it pay him to attend, he also received college credits for going. I thought there had to be a catch. I needed more details, so I decided to attend an information session, because what did I have to lose? I was instantly blown away by the professionalism and structure, so I signed up immediately.

During the program, I went through extensive technical and personal training. I was forced to put my best foot forward and become a version of myself I never knew existed. I was held accountable for managing my time, turning in my assignments, studying offline, dressing appropriately, and being a team player. I learned professional skills that would help me stand out amongst the millions of resumes that recruiters and employers receive every day. I started the program lost and graduated a leader.

I was later hired by the company I was assigned to intern with, focusing on software development. I stayed there for two and a half years before seeking better opportunities. I was fortunate enough to work at places like the Brookings Institute and Georgetown University before deciding to relocate to Charlotte, North Carolina, with my little family. Two months after moving, I endured a very tough job search, until I was presented with a six-week contract role for a company called Skookum which turned into a six month internship, which then led to a full time software engineer role in December 2018.

I can honestly say that none of the things I have accomplished would have been possible if I hadn’t found the Year Up program when I did. I don’t know where I would be right now if I had listened to others who had claimed it was a scam or if I didn’t attend an information session. Year Up helped me change my path and find my purpose. It’s been seven years and I recommend Year Up to every young adult that I come in contact with. It’s one of the best programs out there right now and I hope it continues changing lives and bridging the opportunity divide.

Brittany Ball

Brittany Ball is an alumna of the Year Up program.
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