Welcome to the Building Futures YouthBuild AmeriCorps blog!
Building Futures has many students with remarkable stories that are truly news worthy. Every Building Futures student shares a story of adversity, perseverance, determination and courage to succeed in life. Although every student’s story has a common thread, some individuals have very unique stories that deserve to be highlighted for the world to read.
In January 2015, Building Futures entered into a collaborative partnership with the Pere Marquette Illinois Youth Center (IYC). The Illinois Youth Center mission is to preserve public safety by reducing recidivism. Youth incarcerated in the department’s care receive individualized services provided by qualified staff who gives them the skills to become productive citizens.
The Building Futures/Pere Marquette collaborative experimental pilot project was designed to assist juvenile youth offenders in furthering their education, while incarcerated at the youth correctional facility. The Building Futures/Pere Marquette partnership began with two students. I am proud to announce that today’s blog post highlights one of those students and his unique story of adversity, perseverance, determination and courage to succeed in life: Mario Mendoza!
Mario grew up in a gang-infested neighborhood. Due to negative choices, he ended up at the Pere Marquette Illinois Youth Center at the age of 15. When first entering Pere Marquette, Mario continued his negative behavior until he was given a chance to obtain his GED through the Building Futures/Pere Marquette partnership.
Since entering the Building Futures program, Mario has completed his GED, received his PACT certificate and earned his AmeriCorps Education Award. He has transformed into a leader among his peers, presenting a positive behavior. Mario contributes part of his positive behavior change to his exposure to the Building Futures mentoring program.
Building Futures’ goal with mentoring is to ensure that mentored youth complete the program, enter college, receive increased credentials, provide higher levels of service and provide leadership to their communities. In return, we hope the mentored become active community members and youth mentors themselves.
In recalling one of his memories of the Building Futures mentoring program, Mario said, “My mentor said it was okay that I messed up, and I could change things around. He said it was not the end of the world. As long as I didn’t make those mistakes again, I would be alright.”
Mario is now in an intern with Building Futures. He will begin to function as a mentor to future students entering the Building Futures program. When asked what his future mentoring message to other students will be, he said, “Gang banging and going down the wrong path is not the place to go, because it’s not going to take you anywhere in life.”
What makes Mario’s story a success is that he accomplished most of his certifications while incarcerated and attending Building Futures. Subsequently, he has been released from the juvenile detention center and is currently participating in his second semester of college majoring in Automotive Technology.
Mario, reflecting on the time that has passed and where his life is currently and states, said, “It feels good that I am going to college, because I know I will get something out of it. Out of everyone I grew up with, there are only two of us that are going to college, and I have become someone that people from my neighborhood look up to. My family is proud of me and wants me to continue on this path. In the future, I want to complete the Automotive Technology associates degree and own my own shop. I would also like to work within construction, hopefully becoming a part of the union.”
Until the next time- Signing off!
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, what are you doing for others?”
~ Dr. Martin Luther King