De’Janae: CYC You Count! Student Honoree
De’Janae Speech from Back to School Night 2019
I want to first start by giving my utmost appreciation and thanks to everyone who has helped me on my journey. Ms. Joy, for giving me this chance. Ms. Christina, for being not only a mentor to me but a friend, and my Futures community who have been with me the whole way.
I am an adopted student. I come from drug abused families and uneducated generations.
However, I have always considered myself an excellent student.
During my senior year at Gateway High School, my father’s cancer had progressed and my mom was also diagnosed. I started working at Home Depot, taking more shifts and attending school less, in order to help provide for me and my family. Eventually, becoming a truant student forced me to find a new path.
At the age of 17 I was referred to Colorado Youth for a Change and Futures Academy, where I met Ms. Christina, my soon-to-be student advisor. Preceding my introduction of the post- secondary opportunities at Futures, I pursued taking full advantage of all this program had to offer.
I previously had concluded that my dreams and ambitions were over before being introduced to Colorado Youth for a Change. However, in the midst of pursuing my GED and with the help of a scholarship provided by Futures, I co-enrolled at Pickens Technical College in Advanced Manufacturing. I absolutely loved it.
But as the only black female in my class and continuous tribulations I struggled with my confidence level. That year my dad passed away and in that same week I had welcomed an amazing baby girl.
After my first year I was beginning to feel behind, and it only got worse when I returned from maternity leave the previous year to a new professor. I was not only trying to be a full time student during the day, but working full time overnight and taking care of my baby girl. By year two, my grades had dropped from straight A’s to all D grades and I quickly realized that if I wanted to graduate I needed to quit my job. So I am proud when I say that I finished the program in May of 2019 with my certification and of course members of Futures were there to help congratulate me!
But I didn’t want to stop there. I didn’t want to limit myself if I had the chance for more opportunities. My Futures community pushed me to strive for more. Today I am enrolled in the Esthetician program and look forward to obtaining not just a job – but a career. I will take my final GED test once I graduate from this program in the spring.
The Futures community has supported me every step of my journey. Providing mental health counseling and outside resource help. From the moments I was accepted unsure of my future, to moments where they noticed I was discouraged, retracting, and feeling defeated.
I am proudly revealing my story today in hopes that people like Ms. Christina know that their work changes lives. And people like you know that this organization matters. They help break generational chains. They help provide a safe encouraging community.
My dream is to be able to see this program still thriving when my daughter becomes a teenager. This is an organization I want my child to be a part of. I thank you for honoring me with this You Count award tonight. Thank you believing that I count.
Beloved: CYC Reengagement program
Another year passed and as Beloved watched her friends on the stage getting a diploma, she realized she was falling behind. She transferred schools during both her freshman and sophomore year and began hanging with the wrong group of students at her new school. Her mom kept pushing her to take school seriously, but a lack of confidence and toxic relationship limited her motivation. Then, she met Nakato through CYC. With her help, Beloved finished all of her credits within three months. She got her GED and was concurrently enrolled in the Certified Nursing Assistant program at Emily Griffith Technical College. Today, Beloved is working part-time and taking classes to be an LPN.
Emilio: CYC Educational Intervention program
The first month of the school year, CYC’s Educational Intervention Specialist Mel received a phone call from a student’s mother who was concerned about her 9th grade son because he had been missing class, was not doing any work for school, had behavior problems at home, and was telling her he wanted to drop out of high school. He had missed a few school days and was failing 3 classes, 2 of which were important core classes.
After CYC’s initial meeting with Emilio, it was clear that he was a very bright student with a lot of potential. However, Emilio had outside factors impacting his success. His house was very crowded and chaotic due to his older brother’s family moving back in. This made it hard for him to get any work done and also was negatively impacting his mood. He wanted to drop out of school, start working, and move out of his home.
Together, Mel and Emilio put together a plan. He connected with a high school senior who had been in a similar situation and was able to speak about the benefits of staying engaged in school. Teacher meetings also followed, where CYC helped him advocate for different homework accommodations since it was so difficult to complete at home. A plan was also put into place to prioritize missed assignments and review grades regularly. Over the semester, Emilio’s attitude changed.
Although he initially wanted to drop his Honors English and Honors Math class for second semester in favor of the regular level courses, he decided to stay the course. He wanted to prove to himself, his mother, and his teachers that he could do better in those classes second semester.
Emilio ended up passing all of his classes first semester and is off to a strong start second semester. Without support from flexible and caring teachers, a student mentor, or CYC intervening at the right time, Emilio could have become a student who fell through the cracks. Instead, he has become an engaged and highly motivated student who is on track to reach his goals and graduate from high school.
Karina: CYC’s Futures Academy program
Karina struggled in school and dropped out her Freshman year. Soon after, she got pregnant. She stayed out of school to take care of her daughter Mia for two years and thought high school was just not a good fit for her. Then Amber, an advisor at Futures Academy, called her and got hold of her father. Amber told Karina’s father Futures would help her get back on track and provide access to resources for her daughter. Karina didn’t want to go, but once she toured the school and felt how welcoming the staff was, she decided to give it a try.
Though she had a stable home at her father’s, Karina’s biggest challenge was how to go to school and care for her daughter and younger siblings, while her father worked. Each day she would get her siblings to school, her daughter to daycare (an Aurora Public Schools’ program, housed in the same building as Futures), and then attend Futures. Still she thrived. She started passing her GED tests and enrolled at the Community College of Aurora taking pre-nursing requisite classes.
After several semesters at the Community College of Aurora, Karina’s daughter was diagnosed with stage three cancer. Karina had to put her dreams on hold as she stepped away to take care of her daughter, but Mia was a fighter and after a year + of treatments, she was recently given the title of “cancer free.” Karina is more determined than ever to pursue her dreams of college and become a nurse to care for others the way that the nurses cared for Mia.
“The best part is I feel like I am succeeding, that I am doing something positive for my future and Mia’s future.”
Erick: CYC Reengagement program
Erick: Reengagement Spring 2019
When his mother lost her job during his sophomore year, Erick didn’t hesitate to become the provider. As the oldest of his siblings, he has always taken great pride in being a role model. He began a job in construction, often times working grueling 12 hour days in overwhelming conditions. His school work wasn’t any easier, but Erick was determined to complete his education while also caring for his family. During his junior year of high school Erick had the highest SAT score at Montbello Career and Technical High School. But at the peak of his academic career and budding professional career Erick had to leave school. Working and studying all day with little rest began to impact his personal life.
When Nakato met Erick a few weeks before the 2018/2019 school year began, he was as dedicated to finishing his diploma as he was when he first left school. Luckily he only needed a few classes to graduate however, he still needed to work and be in school full time. Within two weeks of starting school his attendance was low and he was at risk of being dismissed yet again from Montbello Career and Tech. Erick advocated for himself to enroll as a GED student. In the GED program he had more flexibility and was able to work during the day. One and a half months after he started his GED course, Erick had passed all his tests with flying colors. Due to his hard work, dedication, and integrity Erick graduated as the valedictorian of his class and spoke at the commencement ceremony in May. Erick is now working full time in a warehouse in Denver and hopes to open an automotive business one day.
Joyelle: Colorado Reading Corps AmeriCorps Member
When I first started working with one student, I was told the family didn’t value education. When this student first started in the Reading Corps program, she put ‘McDonalds worker’ down under the ‘future job’ line on the All About Me form, but later in the year, she added that she was interested in being a doctor. I talked with her every day about how important and interesting education and reading were.
She went from saying she ‘couldn’t read’ to saying ‘she could,’ and won the reading certificate for her first grade class at the end of the school year. She loved to read books by spring and increased her reading level by two years.
Throughout the year, she was so excited to bring back her Read At Home folder each day, and reread with me the books the program sent home with her. She ended the year feeling so proud that she could read entire books!