by Alexander Palacios
When I was in high school, I struggled to get motivated for my education. Every time I was in class, I felt bored because the subjects were not interesting and the teachers were not supportive. I soon formally withdrew, because I had stopped attending school. When my baby brother was born, my family was having financial problems and we couldn’t pay for a babysitter. Knowing I wasn’t in school or working at the time, I decided that I could help my mom by babysitting my brother whenever she was at work. I did that for the next two years. During this time, I still wanted to continue my education. I began pondering how I would obtain my GED. I had tried self-study and tutoring classes. I wondered if I had messed up my opportunity, or if I was just someone who wasn’t fully committed or motivated enough to complete my education.
One day, my mom told me about a program that could offer me GED classes while working at the same time. I thought it was some kind of prank my mom tried to pull on me. She also told me that she was now able to put my brother in daycare and for me to give it a try. I made a phone call to the LAYC/MMYC site in Silver Spring, and from there my life was changed forever.
I had an interview the very next day, and before I knew it I became a Montgomery County Conservation Corps (Corps) member. I wasn’t used to the environment of being in class and interacting with so many people, but I knew that this was my best chance to get my GED, so I just wanted to do the best I could. I knew work-wise I had to talk to my team so that our “teamwork can make the dream work.” One connection I made during my time in the program was with fellow Corps member Christian Arriaza. Chris helped me become more vocal and social with people in the Corps, which made my transition into the Corps that much easier. Another connection I made was with my team leader Jimmy. I used to think that because I was older than most of my fellow Corps members, I was getting my GED too late in my life until he told me his story. Listening to his story about getting his GED as an adult inspired me that it’s never too late to achieve the things you want in life.
Jimmy was not only a great mentor to me, but also a great teacher. I didn’t know the importance of the jobs we do in the Corps until Jimmy helped me to understand conservation and the things I can do to help preserve and protect our environment; for example, removing invasive species and recycling things like water bottles. I also started to have an easier time in class. I did better at subjects that I was never good at before. Learning was actually more fun and easy. My fellow Corps members are amazing people as well. We motivated each other to do our best and kept pushing each other to do better. It took me almost a year, but I finally passed the last section of the GED in September 2016 and obtained my high school diploma.
I want to thank my mom for finding this amazing program for me and never giving up on me. After graduating, I thought about my plans for the future and decided that my first priority would be to get a job and get financially stable. I’ve had help from LAYC/MMYC with my job searches and completing my resume. I couldn’t be more grateful for everything, and neither can I explain in words how great and important LAYC/MMYC is to our youth. I am not sure what I will do next, but I do know that whatever it I will do it well and work hard doing it.