leaky pipe:

disconnection in the education system

youth stories

matthew, 20, north county

I lived in Escondido and went to school there until I was sixteen. I was a good kid. I was on honor roll and I was a mascot for sports at my high school, but I made mistakes and started rebelling against my mom. I was kicked out of school because of my attendance. I moved to Iowa for a year after being kicked out and lived with my aunt. I started doing really well there. I went back to high school and became a straight A student and worked at the school as a custodian. I was studying to be a CNA, a clinical nurse assistant, but then my aunt died.

It was just something I woke up to one morning. I knew vital signs so I knew to how to check to see if she was gone. And she was. Which is crazy, you know having to see my family cry and her babies cry.

After Iowa, since I was still a minor, I returned to Escondido to adult school to try and get my high school diploma. In Iowa I was a senior with a month to graduation. After moving back, I was told California requires more credits so I needed another two years to graduate.

I tried doing the GED thing. I hated it. I hated using the computer because it’s so boring and I just dropped it. That was around the time someone told me about how my cousin became a receptionist for Graybill Medical Group. The COMPACT program helped her get her typing certificate and now she works as a receptionist. The program even helped my cousin get her current position. I thought to myself, “I could do that.”

Even though I hated it, I pushed through and got my GED. I did this because...the reality is as we get older we have more responsibilities and bills to pay. Things like having to buy basic stuff like shampoo and soap...none of this stuff is promised. I realized all this when I was eighteen, literally sleeping in parks because my mother didn’t want me in her house.

I went to COMPACT, asking them if they could help me get back on my feet, letting them know my cousin Norma had sent me. It was difficult asking for help because I was so embarrassed. I was young and thought I could do everything myself. But in reality, all people need help sometimes.

I raised myself — I taught myself to do everything. I had no support and had to build up my own independence through loneliness. I’ve seen so many family members doing nothing with their lives and living off of relatives, and family members working hard to buy their own shampoo and soap and supporting themselves. Seeing the hard work encourages me.

When I came back to San Diego, I had nothing to my name. COMPACT staff tutored me, listened to what I wanted and helped me get my GED. I even go to COMPACT to vent sometimes and they’ll listen to me. My godparents and COMPACT staff supported me — I worry I bug them sometimes, but I know I can go to them for anything and they’ll help me.

Now I have my GED and recently completed a CNA class, so now I’m working as a CNA at a retirement home in Escondido. It’s going to take me a while, but I want to pursue a bachelor’s in nursing. I have obstacles but I know I have help in overcoming them. I’m confident in my future.