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Video: After Years of Loss, One Bronx Resident Finds Hope

When King Oquendo was in high school, he says he didn’t feel close to any of his teachers. So when he thought about dropping out, there was no one to stop him—except for his dad.

“I did whatever I could to make him proud of me,” Oquendo says in the video below. “And I graduated.”

He went on to enroll in college, working more than 60 hours a week to support himself. Eventually, the workload became too much, and he couldn’t keep up with school. This time, he made the tough decision to leave school and focus on work.

Shortly after, Oquendo was hit with two pieces of devastating news: his company let him go, and his dad passed away.

 

 

Oquendo was unemployed for two years, but he still woke up early every day, just to be ready when he eventually got a job. He also leaned on his girlfriend heavily to help him cope with the loss of his father. After seeing how much he enjoyed working with computers, she encouraged him to apply to the tech-training program Per Scholas—to which he was accepted and finished in 2014.

“The staff here is phenomenal,” he says of his time in the program. “I never really felt this in high school or in college. They provided a mentorship I had never had before. I really feel like I have shoulders to lean on if I need to talk to anybody in the staff.”

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His time with Per Scholas led to an internship with Alphaserve Technologies, which then led to a full-time job with the company. He also enrolled part-time at Bronx Community College.

“It shouldn’t be this hard to find a job. If you want to work you should be able to work,” he says. “I know too many people who are still looking for work.”

“I’m tired of poverty,” he adds. “I’m fighting for better, for a better life for me and my family. I’m happy where I’m at now, but I will never settle. I’ll keep aiming for better.”

When America’s Promise staff followed up with Oquendo, he was happy to report he decided to devote his energy full-time to his last semester at Bronx Community College. He plans to get back into the IT field after graduation.

To learn more about programs like Per Scholas that prepare young adults for the workforce, check out the Youth Opportunity Fund.