After graduating from YouthBuild Fall River in October of 2013, Michelle Tirado was accepted into the CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) program at Bristol Community College.
As the classes went on, it became clear to her that her future was in the medical field, but that she wouldn't be satisfied with a career as a nursing assistant -- so she set a goal.
That goal will amaze and inspire you, and remind you of the power of YouthBuild to help under-served young people realize their potential...
Okay Michelle, what's your full name and when did you graduate?
My name is Michelle Tirado and I graduated on October 25th 2013.
And where did you grow up?
I grew up in Rhode Island.
Okay, so how did you end up in Fall river?
I actually moved out here a year ago with my mom.
What were you doing before you joined YouthBuild Fall River?
I was actually attending another YouthBuild in Rhode Island.
Oh wow, so you started at a YouthBuild in Rhode Island and you ended up at YouthBuild Fall River... Tell me…how did you even end up in YouthBuild in the first place?
Well I found out about YouthBuild Providence because my brother went there. Then when I moved to Fall River, my previous program recommended I go to YouthBuild Fall River. So I gave it a shot and I signed up, did my mental toughness and got picked to be in the program. But had a little bump in the road where I stopped going to the program for a couple of months…
Well I got a job and started thinking that money was more important than education. Then the school kept contacting me, trying to get me to come back. They would call me every day, and eventually they convinced me to come back to school. Then finally I got my GED. Amen (laughs). And now I’m taking CNA classes at BCC.
That’s great to hear and it makes me curious. There are so many GED programs out there, what made you choose YouthBuild?
Well, at YouthBuild they understand where you come from. They know the struggles that you’ve been through. They know how to treat you, compared to regular high schools that will just kick you out of class. YouthBuild understands where their kids come from.
For me, I’m 23 years old, so going back to school at YouthBuild was the last straw for me. I’ve done Job Corps, I’ve done GED programs in Rhode Island that did not work out for me. So I tried YouthBuild because my brother referred me to YouthBuild Providence. I tried it, but I didn’t succeed in that one. Then when I moved out here they referred me to YouthBuild Fall River, and there I did succeed. And I was amazed at what I could do. It’s a great opportunity for kids like me who grew up in the projects -- who experienced the struggle.
You said you surprised yourself. How?
Well I got my GED, and that was really surprising. I didn’t think I could do it. I didn’t always have the support that the staff at YouthBuild Fall River gave me. They had more faith in me than I had in myself. If it weren't for them, I wouldn’t have been able to do it on my own. And getting it was a great feeling.
Tell me about the construction component of the program. How did it impact you?
It’s actually a great trade. I do a lot of the renovations at my own house now. I was able to get a job at Home Depot mostly because I had been through a construction training program and I’m familiar with everything.
The opportunity to go to school and learn a trade is great. Whether it’s construction or another trade, I’m sure everybody can learn it and take it further.
So are you considering a career in construction?
Right now, no.
What is it you’re hoping to do now that you’ve graduated? You said you were taking classes at BCC…
Yes, I’m taking CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant) classes at BCC and I finish December 10th.
And once those are done, and you’re a CNA, what’s the plan then?
Well, then I want to work as a CNA and go back to BCC take EMT classes. I want to be in the medical field, but I’ll still have that construction knowledge from the program and from working at Home Depot.
So what kind of training do you have to go through to to become an EMT?
I’m still looking into it, but that’s only one of the things I want to do. I don’t want to stop there. I’m going to keep taking courses in the medical field.
Oh, so that’s not your ultimate goal, to be an EMT? Do you have a position you’re shooting for? Where do you want to end up?
I actually want to be a doctor. It’s going to be hard but I’m going to work my way up there.
Wow. Any particular kind of doctor?
First I was looking into becoming a midwife, but now I’m looking into surgical.
Is there any particular reason why? Was it just one of those careers that always interested you?
I would like to be the person referred to as “the doctor who can save a person’s life”. That’s what I want to be known as.
Sounds like YouthBuild has helped you establish your goals and get started on the path to achieving them. It's helped a lot of other young people do the same, but it may not always be that way due to lack of funding in recent years.
If you had the opportunity to speak to all the people responsible for funding the 11 YB programs in Massachusetts -- state representatives, senators, the governor -- what would you say to convince them that YouthBuild deserves more funding?
I would tell them I dropped out at 17, and I’m 23 years old now. There’s a big gap in between there. I moved to Fall River and I started going to YouthBuild, but left after a few months because I cared more about the money than education. But the school pulled me back which was good because we always need somebody to be there for us….to help us to follow the right road. If it wasn’t for YouthBuild, I wouldn't be here right now. I would never have gotten my GED, I would never have taken CNA classes, I would never go up the ladder. I would be going down the ladder. I would explain to them how YouthBuild understands students that have struggled, and normal high schools or GED programs don’t care about us the way YouthBuild does. It’s a great opportunity, we get to help other people through community service. It’s not just school.
I’m glad you brought up the community service part of the program. What did it feel like when you were out there doing community service for a group that was in-need, or building a home for a low-income family?
It feels great to give a family an opportunity to live in a house or an apartment -- not just housing. It’s great that they can live in an apartment/house complex. That was something I never had growing up. It feels great. It feels GREAT. You don’t even understand.
Tell me what the difference is between Michelle before YouthBuild and Michelle after YouthBuild.
Well…Michelle before youthbuild…
She was very immature. Through YouthBuild I became much more mature. I’m focused on school, work, and my goals.
If somebody wrote a biography about you, what do you think the title should be?
I would say, “Recognizing The Unreal.” Just because I’ve actually recognized the unreal. Through YouthBuild I was able to realize what I’m capable of.
If you could point to one thing -- one lesson you’ve learned at YouthBuild that was the most important to you -- what would it be?
I learned that helping people and giving back to the community is very satisfying. When we had snow during the winter, we would go to YouthBuild, get on the bus and go around to people’s houses and shovel them out of the snow. They would come out and say “Thank you so much, I wish I had money to give you.” And we would tell them, "We don’t do this for money, we do this to help you."
If you could give one piece of advice to young people just starting out in YouthBuild, what would it be?
Don’t give up no matter what situation you’re in because YouthBuild will take you a long way in life.
Are there any people out there you’d like to give a shout-out to? People who have helped you get to where you are today…
Well I want to give a shout-out to YouthBuild Providence because of the fact that they’re still in my life, and YouthBuild Fall River. So those two. I have too many individuals to thank for helping me get to where I am, so I'm just going to leave it at that.
If you're a Mass. YouthBuild graduate interested in sharing your story, contact Terry Moran at email@example.com