This is the fifth post in our monthly blog series highlighting the work of the Opportunity Youth Partnership.
The Opportunity Youth Partnership (OYP) is a collective impact initiative in Santa Clara County. Opportunity Youth are 16-24-years-old disconnected from education and/or employment. In Santa Clara County there are over 20,000 Opportunity Youth (see page 31). The OYP’s priority populations are Opportunity Youth who have experienced the justice system, foster systems, and/or homelessness, as well as those who are pregnant/parenting. This initiative brings together community based organizations and nonprofits, public systems, and employers to build pathways to education and career that lead to durable self-sufficiency.
By: Jason C.
San Jose Conservation Corps & Charter School Graduate and San Jose City College Freshman
My name is Jason, I am 25 years old and currently a freshman at San Jose City College. In June 2016, I graduated from the San Jose Conservation Corps & Charter School and continue to work there as a Crew Leader. I lead a team of people, who are in the same shoes I was in not too long ago, doing different environmental projects around Santa Clara County. I’ve made it to college, despite fearing I never would and wanting to quit along the way. I’d like to share some of my experiences transitioning from a not-so-conventional high school to community college. My road to getting back on track has been long, and it hasn’t been easy. But I did it. I hope we can help many more young adults like me to make this transition.
To be honest, nearly everything about this transition has been challenging. Filling out the multiple applications, completing FAFSA, deciding which school to go to, and taking a placement test were unfamiliar and nerve wracking experiences. I have bad memories of being in high school and not understanding the material, and these memories resurfaced throughout this process. Managing my feelings, while managing all the appointments, taking care of the details, and working full-time was tough. It was made harder by commuting across town by bus. If you aren’t in the right mindset, if you aren’t ready, all of these things become even more challenging.
Support from kind and knowledgeable people has been really important. Aside from people who have come into my life through school and programs, I don’t have any adults in my life who can help me figure these things out. Enrolling in college is confusing. Erica, the Pathways Coordinator with the Opportunity Youth Partnership, supported me through the enrollment process. Having her support took a huge load off of my shoulders. If I hadn’t, I probably would have quit – I would have given up on the FAFSA. I messed up on it the first time and didn’t know what I did wrong, and it’s hard to keep track of all the things to do and turn in. I was so frustrated I didn’t even want to look at it. She helped me figure out what needed to be fixed, and gave me constant reminders about things to turn in and paperwork to collect. A lot of this stuff is pretty difficult, it’s nice to have someone there to help you out.
Erica also connected me to Guardian Scholars where I met Julio, my counselor. He helped me choose the right classes. He showed me all the classes I will need to take to graduate and helped me choose a class schedule that fit with my full-time job. He also gave me a book voucher, meal vouchers, and school supplies. I work full-time, but it’s still difficult to get by. It was a relief to know these expenses were taken care of. He also gave me things I didn’t know I would need, like scantrons and bluebooks. Getting these things gave me a sense of being more prepared for college, which made me feel excited and confident.
The process has been challenging, and I truly had no idea what to expect or what would be required. It felt like being in a dark hallway with no light – you don’t realize where you are until you hit something. Having support people to walk you through every step is really important, they can start to shine a light in the dark. I’m not sure what kept me going, but I know I was tired of expecting things to go good instead of making them go good. I used to blame everything in the world but myself for bad things, but instead of feeling bad for myself I’m trying to make good things happen for me. If I didn’t have people to walk me through the process I would not be attending school. Opportunity Youth need someone to give them that boost, that nudge, or that opportunity. I feel like that was given to me and I am so thankful for it.
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