leaky pipe:

disconnection in the education system

youth stories

naomi, 20, metro region

I’m the second to the youngest of five siblings. During fourth or fifth grade, my parents separated, which made it hard for me. During my middle school and high school years, my family moved around a lot. We moved to Arizona, Louisiana, Texas, and then back to California. It was difficult because I never stayed at one school for too long. It messed up my school credits. My school wasn’t able to get the transcripts from the other schools I attended. On top of me hanging out with friends a lot and being a class clown, it meant that at the age of eighteen I couldn’t finish high school on time. When I wasn’t able to graduate, I decided to get my diploma the following year.

I didn’t get much help from staff or counselors and had to figure out the next step to getting my diploma on my own. I just didn’t realize I was too far behind until it was too late. I knew I needed to continue school and get my diploma, but I also needed money and wanted to find a job. While I was talking to my sister and asking for advice, she mentioned Urban Corps. My sister has always been like a second mom to me and filling the gaps my mom didn’t always fill, and she made sure to let me know about her positive experiences with Urban Corps. I decided to give them a call and filled out an application. I didn’t think they were really going to call me back. I was in the process of filling out job applications and always called the employers because I was so determined to find a job. I thought I needed to do that with Urban Corps too.

After putting in the application, I called a week later to check on the status of the application. They told me to give them another call back, but then called me first to tell me when orientation started. Two or three weeks after school ended for the summer, I started at Urban Corps. I was there for about eight months and ended up graduating a year later in June 2015. I was so happy — Urban Corps helped me so much. They had me go to high schools to teach them how to do résumés. In the Pathways program, they helped me with getting a bus pass. Pathways connected me to Urban League.

Originally, after I got my high school diploma, I was still worried about finding a job. The manager at Pathways liked me and gave me an extra month to stay at the program to find a job. He even mentioned I could come back and be a supervisor if I got my driver’s license. They were persistent in calling me after graduation and checking in on me. They said I was considered still part of Pathways so they would ask me to go in to get a bus pass and a little money for necessities.

Even though something inside of me insisted it would be a waste of time, I ignored that voice and continued to go to meetings to look for jobs. I kept going to those meetings but I still wasn’t finding a job. A little later, someone at Urban League told me she liked me and let me know an internship at Urban League was opening, and encouraged me to apply. I applied and interned for three months. Towards the end, my supervisor told me about San Diego Workforce Partnership’s Job Coach program and pushed me to apply. After submitting my application, I made sure to follow up and call a point of contact my supervisor told me about.

I got an email for an interview and ended up getting the position. I keep thinking about how if I didn’t persist in going to the Pathways meetings, maybe I would have missed out on this opportunity. I had to keep telling myself to be patient and keep moving forward, and now everything’s worked out and falling into place. I started school at City College last year, taking it slow to get used to the school environment and taking classes and figuring out what I want to go for. Now that I have my diploma and a good job — the next step is going to school and figuring out what I want to do in my career.