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.
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.