YB Story | Mario C.

Headshot of Mario in cap and gown.

As a child I was born into a family that was just starting to fall apart, I lost my father at a very young age, and my mom was a hard working individual so she was never really around. She made sure we had food on the table, and a roof over our head. The loss of my father really affected me growing up, I felt as if I had no role model or no one there to teach me right from wrong so I taught myself.

Growing up, I did a lot of things normal kids wouldn’t do. I would roam the streets to find some kind of excitement, which normally lead to trouble. I found myself in the wrong crowd, with the wrong influences. I was always the smart one out the bunch, I always thought twice about what I did or what I was about to do, and that technique stayed with me until this day. Without this technique, I honestly don’t know where I’d be. As I got older, I started to figure out that I was on the earth alone, and it was up to me to define my life. I started to act the way a normal kid should, go to school, come home, do homework, and play games. Anything that kept me occupied was a good thing. It kept my mind off the negativity. I had straight A’s and B’s throughout my elementary and middle school years, but when I got to the 8th grade my troubles caught back up to me. I ran into the crowd I was avoiding all those years, and there were way more problems from when I was a kid. I got involved with the laws, and into a whole bunch of fights that I thought would eventually lead to prison or maybe even death. As I started to fall apart, my grades dropped as well as my attendance, and I felt that school wasn’t for me anymore. When I became a freshman, I didn’t even attend school, but I created my son, which would change my life forever.

I slowly changed my life around…. my grades went up, and my attendance got better but it wasn’t enough come my senior year. I didn’t have enough credits to graduate. I was becoming an adult, which meant I had adult priorities that I couldn’t really fulfill, and I lost hope in myself! I felt as if I was letting my family down. That summer I ran into a friend that told me about a school that could help me graduate and would pay me as long as I attended school. I seriously considered it because I had bills to pay and I needed that diploma if I wanted to be something in life. I attended American YouthWorks and joined a program called YouthBuild that built houses for low-income families. It really taught me a lot and changed the way I looked at the world. I met a lot of people that made me feel like I wasn’t on this earth alone and that I could be something in life for my family. I became a welder and really started to get ahead of the game, but I still wasn’t a graduate and that was the goal I was trying to accomplish even with the thousands of roadblocks I faced. I never gave up hope! Going to ACC to learn welding motivated me even more because I knew if I didn’t graduate, I was never really going to move up in the welding industry and that was money I was losing to provide for my family.

I finally finished my assignments that I needed to get my credits to graduate, and that was the greatest relief I had ever felt. I knew then that I was on the road to success and I can be anything I want to be if I put my mind to it. I honestly think my Dad was next to me the whole time, not in sight but in spirit pushing me to do right even when I was doing wrong. Now I’m graduating and I couldn’t feel more proud of myself.