We are very proud of each of these inspiring young people, and we thank them for sharing their personal stories.
The youth served by Identity’s programs have typically endured situations and setbacks early in life that many adults would find overwhelming. The stories featured here bring some of those challenges to life. They also demonstrate how eager and determined our youth can be to create a better future for themselves — and how much they can achieve when we provide support, guidance and opportunities.
“I finished 10th grade with a 4.0 GPA and there’s no stopping me now!”
When I was three years old, my mother had to leave me with my grandparents in Honduras to work in the United States.
My heart’s desire was to be back in her arms, and at 16, I joined her in Montgomery County. But the fantasy ended right there. I felt like I didn’t fit in with my new family, a new step-father and two new siblings. I grieved for my grandparents and lashed out at my mother’s rules.
Identity’s mental health therapist, Patricia, showed us how to understand each other’s pain. She taught us to listen to each other, accept each other, and work together to move forward. Identity helped me to believe in myself and connect better in school.
I finished 10th grade with a 4.0 GPA and there’s no stopping me now!
Identity believed in me and taught me to believe in myself.
I was running with a bad crowd in California when I dropped out of high school. I came to Maryland for a second chance and my G.E.D. That’s how I first found Identity, but they gave me so much more than academics.
I learned teamwork and how to get along with people. They took me on field trips where I met new people.
Identity opened my eyes to the possibilities of life.
The Identity workforce counselors knew I loved fixing cars. So, they helped me get an internship at Paintmasters auto body shop. At the end of the internship the shop hired me full time! My boss also appreciates my help communicating with his growing number of Latino customers.
If it wasn’t for Identity, I’d probably be hanging around my old friends, trying to find a place to stay at night. Instead, I have a job that I love and a real future.
We each have our own reasons for dropping out of high school, but we’ve all felt the same despair when hit with the reality of trying to find a decent job without a high school degree.
We came to Identity for the chance to get a G.E.D. But we got so much more.
Financial literacy classes. Substance abuse and mental health counseling. Emergency assistance. Mentoring. Sports and recreation. Identity helped us break down the barriers that blocked our potential.
This year, 18 of us earned a G.E.D. at Identity.
“If you want to be someone in life they’re going to be there to help. They are almost like the parents we didn’t have. They give you the parenting and they get you through life.”– Uriel Rivera, Class of 2016
At 14 I dropped out of school in Honduras and lived on the streets. At 16 I decided to fight for a better life, and made my way alone to live with my uncle in Maryland.
I enrolled in school and worked hard, but my passion and my escape was soccer. That’s how I first met Coach Efrain Viana, who came to school to recruit for the Identity league. What I liked immediately was that everyone got a chance and was treated like family. I wasn’t alone anymore.
Identity pushed me to work hard in school as well as on the field, and to take every opportunity presented. Opportunities like college — Coach Efrain connected me with coaches at Washington Adventist University.I start this fall with a full scholarship.
I wonder where kids like me who don’t have their mothers or fathers here would be without Identity.
Thanks to Identity, I am where I am. I am going to college!
When I was 11 I came from Nicaragua to live with my aunt. I desperately wanted a good education, but my aunt would sometimes pull me out of school to babysit or help with chores.
I studied twice as hard to keep up, and my ESOL teacher suggested I join Identity’s afterschool program. I loved Identity; we could talk about all the things we wouldn’t talk about at home. I felt close with my youth counselor, Gabriella.
When I was 14, I had a big fight with my aunt. She locked me in my room, and I was so angry I jumped from the window, three floors up, and ran into the night. Desperate, I called Gabriella and she actually came and got me.
Over the next few hours, she made me see what I couldn’t see, that my aunt cared about me and was supporting me — that running away from home would lead to danger for me. I reconciled with my aunt, and she began to understand the importance of Identity and education in my life.
I am eternally grateful to Identity. Today I own my own home, attend college, and I am Identity’s staff accountant.
During the summer, Latino high school students were invited to play pick-up soccer twice a week with an Identity program. Many of them were ESOL students from Gaithersburg High School. The Identity staffers saw that the teens had great talent, but they refused to try out for their high school‘s official soccer team at Gaithersburg. It’s hard enough for any teen to put himself out there in high school. For kids who don’t speak English comfortably, it can feel impossible. Some of the players were just shy, some were intimidated by the forms and paperwork in English, and some were afraid they would be rejected because of their race or language.
But that didn’t stop the Identity staffers. They drove a group of 13 teens to the pre-season workouts. They introduced them to the coaches, arranged for their physicals, and walked them through the paperwork. And to the surprise of the Identity teens, the coaches and other pre-season hopefuls welcomed them immediately.
When the official teams were announced, amazingly all 13 Identity students had spots, either on JV or varsity.
But there was another roadblock – grades. One student was seriously behind in his schoolwork and was far from the 2.0 grade point average required to play. He was also one of the most passionate about soccer and a leader during the pre-season workouts. The coach would not leave him behind and named him team manager. Now as manager, he’s the first one at practice every day helping his team.
All the kids feel happy. They feel they belong somewhere now. They tease and wrestle and play with all their teammates, speaking the language of soccer. The varsity coach believes this group could go all the way to the state championship this year.
Identity knows these teens have already scored a big goal, creating a strong connection to their school and community that leads to better achievement in school and a clearer path to fulfilling their potential in life.