My name is Katherine Castillo and I am a 25 year old, proud Dominican, Transgender woman. On November 8, 2008 I emigrated from the Dominican Republic to the United States for a better future. I went from Middle School to High School struggling with my identity. I did not have the freedom to be myself or to express my feelings. At the time, I did not know how to go about it because I was very young, so I ended up dropping out of High School and started living as a usual teenager would; I started experimenting with going out, drinking and just living “the best life” as I used to call it, until, my best friend Shantel Alix, introduced me to YouthBuild North Shore CDC. There is where I graduated and where “my better life” really began. When I first joined YouthBuild I was having doubts and trying to figure out if the program was for me. I began making friends and getting closer with the staff members and that is where my actually liking the program began.
The program helped me so much during the journey of my path through YouthBuild. I was provided the opportunity to serve my community through community service which I never thought I would enjoy doing, and I also got to do internships and learning about office/clerical work which helped me to get a clearer vision of my path. After I completed the program course, and gained my HiSet Equivalency Diploma, I applied for the position of “Alumni Engagement Coordinator” at the same program I graduated from. I was trying so hard to get this position and it seemed weird at the time, so I wasn’t sure if I was going to succeed but my desire to give back to this program that helped me so much was bigger than my insecurities and I was hired for the position. Here I can be myself, doing great things for others. I see myself as an example for those who don’t believe in themselves, and what you can achieve, if you just put the work into it.
My name is Kimberly Dalton. I am a mother of four amazingly, awesome children, ages, 6,8,15, & 19. I first began my journey with Youth Build in 2006, when I was twenty-one years old. During that time, I wasn’t sure about anything in my life, other than I knew I wanted change. I was a single mother of two small children, living on my own, and struggling to make ends meet. I had no education, no job experience, and most importantly, no support.
Through the years I have been faced with many hardships. At the age of nine, I lost my grandfather who was dear to my heart. For many years, he and my grandmother lived in the home directly next door from us. At the age of twelve, I would lose my grandmother from a long battle with lung cancer. Shortly thereafter, my parents became separated; this created a volatile relationship between them, and being the youngest of the three children, I became trapped in the middle of their feud. From this point, it was life-changing; I was faced with the horrible truth of having to fend for myself.
My mother eventually signed over parental rights to my father who was lacking the ability to care for himself. He was always a drinker but began suffering from major depression and would drink away his problems. He suffered from alcoholism and had been admitted many times to various treatment centers. He later began using cocaine and would abuse prescription drugs. During his suffering, I got tossed around to whomever would take me.
Feeling the need to escape, I began a relationship with a young man who was five years older than I. At the tender age of thirteen, he began abusing me. The first time he hit me, I was knocked unconscious and came to with an open wound on my head. As I say that everything happens for a reason, there is a scar on my head that will forever be a reminder that I survived.
At the age of fourteen, I became pregnant and had my son. He would be my inspiration, my strength, and my perseverance to be the best person I can be. When I was sixteen, I became emancipated and obtained my first apartment. By the time I was eighteen, I would find the courage to finally leave the abusive relationship. It was then, that I would begin my journey to heal.
Although it has taken a bit longer for me to achieve my goals, I have never given up and have worked diligently keeping my feet on the ground. I was accepted into YouthBuild Fall River and graduated with my GED. During the program I had the opportunity to visit the State House to share my story. Upon obtaining a certificate of completion, I also received an AmeriCorps education award that I would utilize to attend college. Over the years, and with many changes, I chipped away at my academics. Today, it is still a large discussion on how much influence positive support can have on someone. I often speak about Terry Moran as my saving grace because he believed in me, even when I didn't believe in myself.
In 2014, I attended Quincy College where I would later go on to graduate with Honors and obtain an Associates Degree in Human Services. It was during that time, that I would also advocate for a policy change. This change was approved! This change allows women to attend college year around without having the fear of losing their childcare subsidy.
Most recently, I graduated Eastern Nazarene College where I obtained my Bachelor's Degree in May 2018. Funny story, I was finally set to graduate college with my bachelor's degree, one month prior to my son graduating with his high school diploma. It was an amazing accomplishment for both of us, but bittersweet, as he would leave to embark on his own journey with the US Air Force a month later. As for me, I went on to obtain my Real Estate license and am now a Licensed Realtor in the State of Massachusetts. My next goal though, is working on earning a Master's of Social Work Degree and I have been accepted into that program. This is where I have faith in all that I aspire to be and all I can do to be a part of the bigger change.
Over the last several years, I've continued to participate in various community service projects particularly dedicating time directly distributing services and goods to the unsheltered men and women in and around the Boston area. My children are a big part of helping me in continuously being involved. My hope, as their mother, is to instill the same morals and values in them, so that they grew into confident, productive citizens of society. It is my passion to positively influence others in hopes of helping to create a world where there's justice and equality - a place where all feel welcome and have equal opportunity to aspire to be the best version of themselves. A highlight of 2019 was serving as the emcee for the 24th Annual YouthBuild Day at the State House. This is another opportunity to inspire the youth, so that they too, can be successful.