A big thank you to Nathanael Lopez for putting this story together and allowing us to share it with the Massachusetts YouthBuild community.
My name is Nathanael Lopez and I am a YouthBuild New Bedford graduate. My youth was that of a typical inner city kid. I was raised by my mother, my father was not around. I had no real goals or ambitions for my future, for I could not see myself living past the present moment. I had friends and family murdered by the time I was 17, and by 18 I was in trouble with the law. My life mistakes were piling up fast and it felt like my life was in a tailspin. Not having many other options being a high school drop out, I decided to go back to school and get my GED with YouthBuild.
I had known a few people who had graduated from the program and they suggested it might be a good fit for me. Once there, I loved the way the staff interacted with the students. They would support, encourage, and enlighten the students on how to be productive members of their society. They exposed me to a world beyond my imagination. The knowledge and life-altering experiences that I've gained through the YouthBuild New Bedford program have played an intricate part on how I view myself, my community, and the world, and will continue to throughout my life.
Today I work with at-risk youth, mentoring them and trying to get them to see that there is more to life then the streets. I hope to continue to work with at-risk youth and my community. To empower the youth through knowledge and self-respect. I would eventually like to run for some sort of public office. I feel that it's a good way to help my community. I would have a say in how our resources are spent and focus on helping our youth with a more practical and sensible approach to education.
My best memory was speaking at Beacon Hill. I was nervous. I had never done any form of public speaking before. With the support of my fellow students and the staff I mustered up the courage to go up and speak. That day taught me a valuable life lesson. That is in order for you to truly grow you have to step out of your comfort zone. I'm glad I did it. Its a memory I'll never forget.
The thing that stands out the most is the sense of family and camaraderie that I received at YouthBuild. They were able to integrate, educate, and motivate me into being a good role model in my community - in a way that had been unparalleled before. Don't ever stop believing in yourself. Even when things seem hopeless. Whether you say "I can" or "I cant," either way you'll be right. So don't underestimate your ability to do or be whatever you want. Only you can stop you.
If you are a YouthBuild graduate from Massachusetts interested in sharing your story with us, our supporters, and the MA YouthBuild community, contact Ted Vrountas at firstname.lastname@example.org
More issues of In Their Own Words:
Sthephany Garcia, 2012 YouthBuild Fall River Graduate
Phiroth Khourn, 2011 YouthBuild Fall River Grad
Mckaila Coulter, 2011 YouthBuild New Bedford Graduate