Domminique O., 23, is one of the leaders of the Hartford Youth Service Corps. We have been able to see the transition of a shy, not so confident youth to an engaging and very dedicated person. Domminique is one of the hardest workers and most versatile in the HYSC. He started at OPP with the Workforce program, which helped him gain some real-world experience in some fields he might flourish. Since moving into the HYSC group, he has been working in the community doing a multitude of different projects, such as landscaping in residential settings or at a park, or rebuilding traffic islands in the middle of the city. In this program he has been able to capture his potential and become an instant leader in our group. He is gaining experience and His YDS, Phil Starks said, “I see him as an entrepreneur, becoming an owner of his own business, either in landscaping or construction. There are no limits to his success. He will be a Youth Ambassador next year giving him the opportunity to refine his skills as he continues to excel.”
Kamala, 17, is about to start her freshmen year at UCONN to study nursing. Throughout this program, she has been extremely committed and viewed as one of the most consistent members of the Hartford Youth Service Corps since joining in July of 2017. Being a recent graduate from the Capital Community College Magnet Academy, she exudes intelligence and is eager to share her knowledge with the community around her. She lives at home with her parents and two siblings. Working with the YDS as well as her school guidance counselor/mentor, she has gained a lot of valuable skills to help her not only progress her job readiness, but also develop as a person. Kamala is known for her outgoing personality and go getter attitude. She’s worked at St. Augustine Church helping to clean-up on weekends, as well as pitching in time at the Montessori School helping the teachers and monitoring the safety of the students. She is a hands-on leader in any group setting and has the ability to rise up and lead her peers to a goal. Kamala sees a lot of value in the HYSC program, even introducing her brother to the program. Her YDS, Tashana Mullings had this to say about her, “She can do absolutely anything she puts her mind to. She is capable of so many different things, the sky is the limit. All she needs to do is keep persisting and pushing!”
Keyara, 17, is known as one of the most driven and dependable youth in the Hartford Youth Service Corps. Since starting in July of 2017, Keyara has grown tremendously. She has worked with Hartford Communities that Care, Elizabeth Park and the Boys and Girls Club, as well as working with St. Augustine Church during the weekend cleaning sessions. Keyara is known as one of the friendliest persons in the program. She is always ready to chat with someone and she is not afraid to tell people the truth. With the help of her YDS and everyone in the program, Keyara has come a long way. She has improved significantly not only as a person, but also as a worker. Keyara lives at home with her supportive mom, stepdad, and brother. Her perseverance is one of the best traits about her, she showed this by recently earning a job after a long time of applying. Her YDS, Eboni Clark had this to say when reflecting on Keyara, “She has the leadership abilities to become extremely successful. If she stays on the same track and keeps on being as driven and motivated, she will be able to tap into the true leadership potential she has.”
“OPP is a blessing. It’s opportunity. Take advantage of it.”
Juan Rivera is looking for a place of his own.
Growing up, Juan fell in with the wrong group of friends. He got into trouble. He started missing school. Then his dream to become a marine was dashed when he was rejected as disabled.
So when he arrived at OPPortunity Academy, Juan brought a bad attitude with him.
But that changed quickly. Juan realized how many others would love to have his spot. With OPP’s guidance, he buckled down. “You work hard enough; you get things you want.”
His new attitude carried him through OPPortunity Academy, and into Asnuntuck Community College with OPP’s manufacturing program. The first in his family to go to college, Juan took every opportunity and every internship OPP offered him.
But would he find a job?
OPP set up an interview with a manufacturing company, where Juan began a three month internship. Then he was offered an apprenticeship. Juan was on his way.
Juan has almost completed his apprenticeship. Completion means a nice wage increase. Now he can look for his own place: an apartment or even a house.
Juan’s been back to talk with students at OPP. He tells them, “It’s overwhelming when you first start. But it’s so worth it in the end.”
“I was determined to make the most of the opportunities OPP gave me.”
Christina’s early life would defeat many other people.
Because of a complicated home life, Christina learned early that survival meant planning. But high school was tough. Then she found OPPortunity Academy.
“I went in with six credits. I came out with 15 in my first year there. I took every course I could.”
The supportive environment and small classes helped Christina. She says, “They’re miracle workers. It was really good to feel I could actually accomplish things.”
Christina graduated in 2015 and went straight to OPP’s Workforce Development department to help get her on the right track to her goals. She decided to become a paramedic. “I see things people need help with. And I feel like I can do it.”
She finished EMT classes and also volunteers with the Portland Fire Department. Her next step is police work. Her goal is to do all three: police, fire and EMT. “I can try to save one person at a time. I want to make a difference in every field that’s possible.”
Christina returned to OPPortunity Academy for this year’s first day of school to talk with students. She told them, “Take every opportunity you have because it won’t always be there.”
“I’m so ready to prove myself worthy.”
Can passion turn a life around?
Taha (left) was bullied in school. So he skipped it and hung out on the streets, instead.
He was held back. His grades were poor. “I was just trouble,” Taha says. “I had to make a change.”
Then he took a music class. Taha fell in love. “Music had always been on my side whenever I felt bad. It kept me calm.”
He desperately needed more structure, though. That’s when he found OPP. “They saw I was into music and taught me the ropes.”
Music was the focus he needed. And OPP gave him the opportunity to learn about the music business at their Hartford youth center.
“I really wanted to do it for myself. I wanted to show myself that I can do something one day.”
Taha is now a senior at Southern Connecticut State University. He’s studying music and communications.
He founded the school’s first Studio Club, where he shares his love of music production with other students. “I’m going to graduate with a degree, and hopefully go back for another one.”
But he hasn’t forgotten how OPP changed his life. “I would love to be part of a music program for kids. I could do for the m what OPP did for me.”