Darren Meyers, a high school senior, reflects on his journey from adolescence to young adulthood. He grew up in what he describes as the "close-knit city" of Pasadena and loves playing football, going to school, and hanging out with friends. In middle school, Darren says, "I guess... I could be classified as a hot head." Without a positive role model, many youth like Darren struggle to develop the skills necessary to succeed in a community affected by poverty and violence. Show More...
Darren joined Flintridge Center's Youth of Promise Program in seventh grade and says that after being matched with a mentor, "it helped me keep my mind on track." Darren and his mentor, Eric, bonded over their shared passion for football and spend time together going to sports games, movies, and restaurants. "It's just nice to have somebody to talk to about the stuff that's happening around me," Darren says. Eric has been a source of stability and leadership for Darren, from guiding him through the college application process to providing emotional support in difficult times, like when Darren's mother passed away from cancer.
When asked what the biggest lesson he learned from Eric is, Darren reflects, "I can be the bigger man now. I can diffuse a situation without using violence."
With the skills learned as a mentee, Darren has achieved success inside and outside of the classroom. He quarterbacked John Muir High School's Mustangs football team to a victory over Pasadena High School in the 70th annual Turkey Tussle. He will continue to pursue his passion for football as a collegiate athlete next year and is currently assessing options from Dixie State University in Utah and the University of California, Davis.
Darren hopes that future Youth of Promise will take advantage of the opportunity to spend time with a caring and committed mentor. "They're not here to judge you or to put you down. They're going to help you. If they can't help you they'll find a way to help you. They'll find someone who can help you."
Elizabeth had been incarcerated for three years before enrolling in the Apprenticeship Preparation Program. After finding support from APP instructors and fellow classmates, Elizabeth says, "I've learned so much about myself." She says she's ready for a long-term career and is excited to accomplish her goals.
In and out of prison for years, Steve never thought a good career was possible for him. But with the encouragement and support he found in the Apprenticeship Preparation Program, Steve dedicated himself to starting a career. Since we filmed this video, Steve was accepted into the Landscape and Irrigation Union, Local 345, and has been working full time.
After losing his job in aerospace during the recession, Garrett Hall resorted to selling drugs to support his family. He did three years in a county jail and says "I didn't have much of a plan when I got out." Jail left him aimless and pessimistic about finding a career. "They don't teach you anything in jail to better yourself or give you any skills that help you when you get out," Garret says. "They basically just want you back."
Immediately after his release, Garrett enrolled in our Apprenticeship Preparation Program (APP), and finally had something to look forward to — a job in a union. Unions don't discriminate based on criminal records, and they pay a livable wage that could support Garrett's family. Garrett dedicated himself to doing the best he could in the class. Out of other options, he says, "I wasn't gonna take no for an answer." Show More...
The Apprenticeship Preparation Program gave Garrett a second chance. Thanks to the program, he was able to make connections with unions and learn what makes someone an excellent candidate for an apprenticeship. He says the program "gets your foot in the door to a lot of places. They give you that chance." Garrett also loved that the program was free for students: "They pay for your books, safety equipment, and take you to unions. That helps a lot of people out." Garrett concludes, "It's the best program I've ever taken. There should be a lot more programs like this."
On the same day he graduated from the APP in 2014, Garret got accepted as an apprentice in the Plumbers and Pipefitters Union, Local 398, and has been working full time since. He's proud of the work he does, and says "It feels good to complete a job and know that your work is appreciated." He also has benefits for his family and a pension, which has relieved a lot of worry for him.
But the best thing that came out of Garrett's journey was a renewed relationship with his father. He says. "My dad wasn't really proud of me before and he didn't want me back after I got out of jail. But me working and getting in the union gave him something to be proud of. It made me really happy to be able to put a smile on his face before he passed away. And I have Flintridge to thank for that."
"My eyes were opened by this program," says Hiracio, who has been accepted into the Roofer's Union and has been working non-stop after graduating from our Apprenticeship Preparation Program in fall 2015. "It's an investment in your life. It showed me I needed to go this way, not that way."
Mack Lewis was in trouble. He hadn't had a stable job in over 3 years, and had been in and out of jail. When asked what motivated him to come to Flintridge Center, Mack says, "To be honest, my life was a wreck."
For many people like Mack, finding employment after incarceration can seem impossible. "It was hard to get a job with a felony background," he says. "It seemed like every door was being shut on me. No one gave me an opportunity." Show More...
In the spring of 2016, a Flintridge team member urged Mack to give our Apprenticeship Preparation Program a try. Mack says, "I needed something different and I needed to feel like somebody cared in this world. Coming into the class, I didn't think anybody cared. But believe me, that three months changed my whole view on people." Over the course of the three-month class, Mack dedicated himself to becoming an excellent candidate for union apprenticeship by learning construction math, workforce communication skills, blueprinting, construction safety, and more.
The compassion and relentless commitment of the program instructors motivated Mack to keep working toward a career. "They have a genuine love for others and their intention is to make you feel better. I haven't seen that in a long time. That stood out to me."
Just two weeks after graduating from the program, Mack got accepted into the Cement Masons Union. After being out of work for years, Mack says that being able to start his career right after graduating was extremely gratifying. He reflects, "I saw that all my hard work could pay off and that I always had it in me. I really inspired myself. And I love how I feel now."
Now, Mack is working full time and supporting himself and his two sons, ages 7 and 19. He recently saw his 19-year-old for the first time in 2 years and says he's looking forward to being a role model for his son.
Mack knows he's never going back to where he was before. "I love my freedom," he says. "I feel like the class helped me get out of a dark place. It gave me my life back; it showed me how to live my life again." Mack puts it this way: "I feel like if it weren't for this program, I wouldn't be a free man, I probably would have gone down the wrong road."
"Ever since I was 12 I've been in and out of jail."
James had just finished a 7 year prison sentence before enrolling in our Apprenticeship Preparation Program (APP). He felt trapped in a cycle of unhealthy choices that left him with no options, and he didn't think he could achieve anything other than being a gang member. He says, "I thought representing a neighborhood was my life and my purpose."
Then, James took advantage of the opportunity to start a union construction career through the APP. The union construction trades pay excellent wages, provide great benefits, and don't discriminate based on background.
James made a commitment to transforming his life. Because of his dedication, he was accepted into the Cement Masons Union and has been working full time since he graduated in the spring of 2016.
James got more out of the APP than he expected. "It changed me from the inside, out," he says. "It's a program like I've never encountered." When James spoke to fellow APP graduates and guests at the graduation ceremony held here at Flintridge Center, he said, "This is a building of love, a building of hope, a building of change."
"This is my first achievement since coming out of prison."
Benny Pena found the Apprenticeship Preparation Program one week after finishing a 30-year prison sentence. "Flintridge was a blessing," he says, "They helped me begin the process of coming back into society."
While he was at first unsure of what to expect from the program, the openness of Flintridge instructors put Benny at ease and encouraged him to continue. Participating in the APP encouraged Benny to talk about his past — a topic he previously tried to avoid — and take more pride in the things he's accomplished. While in prison, Benny earned a Masters in Theology and mastered drawing and painting. He hopes to enter the painter's union and continue to pursue his passion for art.
Before enrolling in our Apprenticeship Preparation Program, Lacey Zaycher says, "the best word to describe how I was feeling was lost." Now that Lacey is an APP graduate and a union carpenter working on a major construction project, she says, "the one word I would use would be hopeful." Thanks to Lacey's dedication, she got hired before she even graduated from our program.
"I now have the competent skills to not only survive, but thrive."
After her release from prison, Angela Fuller just wanted to occupy her time. She didn't want to fall back to her old habits. That's when she came across the Apprenticeship Preparation Program and decided to give it a try. She says APP was well-suited for her because construction gave her "the opportunity to be creative on a larger scale." Her favorite things about the program were the sense of community, diversity of her class, knowledgeable instructors, and especially the support and motivation Flintridge provided to help her accomplish her goal of graduating. Since graduating, Angela has explored the floor covering union Local 1247, found a solid paying job, and says she has found new avenues in life because of the program. When she's not on the job, Angela enjoys watching wrestling matches and catching up on politics.
"The APP gave me hope. It made me realize that the person I was, wasn't really me. And it showed me a different path."
Ramon knew that a life of crime wasn't for him after getting out of prison, but he didn't know where his life was heading. Luckily, he had support from his family and a parole officer who wanted to see him succeed. He got connected to the APP, and started expanding his options. Ramon says that the program gave him confidence and encouraged him to come out of his shell through life skills sessions and job development. Now that he's an APP graduate, Ramon says his top priority is to help out his parents, and start a family of his own. He also hopes to pursue his passion for soccer.
"I feel grateful. I have the skills and confidence to go onto the next step and the drive to work for something better. It starts with me and ends with me."
Genghis first heard about the Apprenticeship Preparation Program at the PACT Resource Fair. He was hesitant to enroll at first because he wasn't sure if he had an interest in construction. "The first week opened my eyes," he recalls. Every APP class showed Genghis that there's a lot of opportunities out there and much knowledge and skills to gain. Going through the course, Genghis realized he could incorporate his interest in math with construction. He also learned about the importance of unions and the life skills necessary to be a better team player. Since graduating in Fall 2015, Genghis was accepted to two unions and has been working full time. He still finds time to enjoy his passion for skateboarding when he's off work.
Former Youth of Promise mentee Dalon Poole accepted an award from the First Lady on November 17th, 2015, on behalf of the Art High program of the Armory Center for the Arts, along with the Armory's executive director Scott Ward.
Dalon became one of our first YOP mentees when he was a 6th grader at Washington Middle School. The mentoring he received through Flintridge and our partners at the La Pintoresca Teen Education Center helped him improve his grades and attitude in school. Dalon is now a professional photographer and award-winning artist.
Steven never thought he'd end up in prison, but he did, for six long years. As a kid, he was around gang activity all the time. He never thought this would affect his life. It was simply the environment he found himself in.
When he left prison, Steven was scared. He didn't know what to do. He tried to find a job, but no place that would hire him paid enough to make a dent in the support of his three children. He thought about returning to his old ways. He had completely lost faith in himself. He didn't trust anyone.
He wanted help finding a job, but nothing gave him hope, so mostly, he did a lot of nothing. His parole officer thought this was dangerous and told him about us. Show More...
Steven was skeptical until he heard Flintridge team member Daniel Torres speak. Daniel's words moved him because he too had made the journey from incarceration to a well-paying job. Daniel had graduated from our apprenticeship preparation program and worked in the construction trade. Eventually, he decided to move to a career where he could help others along the same path.
Steven was surprised when Daniel told him that in the construction trades he could earn solid wages and have security even though he has a criminal background. But what really convinced him was their connection. They had both been incarcerated, they were both fathers who wanted the best for their children, and our programs and services had helped Daniel create a new and better life for himself and his family.
Steven was inspired to give it a try. He was encouraged when he came to his first apprenticeship preparation class because his instructor was a knowledgeable retired construction worker who had years of experience. As he visited union construction sites, his confidence only grew. He used to be afraid to apply for jobs because of his prison record. But in the construction trades, what counted were his skills and who he was now, not who he used to be.
Steven also benefitted more than he thought he would from the life skills course we provided. The course helped him with self-presentation, interview techniques, money management, his relationships with others, and more. He also took advantage of our case management services, which gave him the support and assistance he needed along the way. Steven says that "this is where my confidence and self-esteem awakened. I felt these relationships were a type of friendship. Everyone at Flintridge showed a genuine interest."
Steven joined the Carpenters Union and began his first job (on a building project at McKinley School of the Arts here in Pasadena!) while he was still enrolled in our program. Steven was so strongly motivated that he worked all day at a physically demanding job and then attended our program in the evenings. His family fully supported him as he worked toward his goals.
And since he completed his apprenticeship, he has been working nonstop. He now makes an excellent wage, has fantastic benefits, and sees opportunities ahead for career advancement. He has built savings and can provide for his two sons and his daughter, as well as assist their mothers. He loves that he can afford fun activities with his kids. It makes him feel like he is on cloud nine. He is also incredibly proud because his two older children are now in college. The stability he worked so hard to attain makes it possible for him to be there for them during this important time in their lives.