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leaky pipe:

disconnection in the education system

youth stories

mia, 22, south county

I had a lot of anger growing up, and was always acting out in middle school and high school. I had the capacity to learn and complete my courses, but I didn’t feel motivated and didn’t go to class. I didn’t have support from my teachers or at home. After high school, I went to community college. I was doing pretty well. I originally wanted to be a pre-school teacher, but realized I wanted to learn more about the human body and sickness and get into medicine. However, my home life was unstable, and family issues made it difficult for me to focus on school. There was a lot of drugs and abuse, and it wasn’t a healthy environment.

I left everything I had and decided to go to a shelter called Coachella Valley Rescue Mission so I didn’t have to go home. Because I had to be at the shelter at certain times, I had to choose between going to school and being at my family’s house, or quitting school. I stayed at the shelter and quit school. After a nine-month program at the homeless shelter, I got a seasonal job and tried going back to school. It didn’t work out so well. I ended up jobless, homeless, and not in school.

In that gap between not being in school or at work, I was doing drugs to manage my emotions. Sometimes I would do drugs to stay awake and make sure no one was going through my stuff. Eventually I just didn’t want to live like this anymore. I talked to someone at the shelter and she got me into rehab the next day. While I was there, I was trying to figure out what to do. Being in rehab was the best thing I could have done. I was able to start the process of working through things from my childhood, and learned how to work on the root of what I was feeling rather using drugs to deal with it.

I found out about Job Corps through a friend, and decided to apply. After only two or three months, I was able to join Job Corps. I was given the necessities like clothes and money for toiletries, and they helped me prepare to get a job. Job Corps provided stability and basic needs like safety, food and shelter. Without that, I wouldn’t have been able to hold a job or go to school. In a few months, I’ll be done with training and want to slowly transition to go back to school.

I worry about the cost of education and managing the balance between school and work. It’s difficult working full time to pay for a room and going to school. I would rather go to school full time to get on with my education. I still have several months to save before I need to transition out of Job Corps, and have been working part time on the weekends to save money.

I’m already registered at Southwestern College because it’s close to Job Corps and has an RN [registered nurse] program. At Job Corps, they have a program called U-Path which is a college readiness class. I asked questions and got more information about the RN program and decided that was what I wanted to do. I’ve just finished medical office training and now I’m doing CNA [certified nursing assistant] training. Once I’m done at Job Corps, I plan on finishing my college credits and becoming an RN. I’m modeling healthy habits and staying clean. I joke with my brother I’m going to be the best nurse in the world because it’s a job you can’t do half-way. Being dedicated, wanting to help and really caring like Florence Nightingale, the frontier pioneer nurse, is a big part of being a nurse.