John Jones, age 19, is one of 219 new students – all previously high school dropouts – entering YouthBuild Philadelphia this fall. As part of our ongoing effort to share the amazing transformations made by our students, John offered to answer a few questions at the onset of his yearlong journey.
What motivated you to come to YouthBuild?
I heard about YouthBuild through a friend of mine, but I’ve never really been big on coming back to get my diploma. I was into the streets; I used to hustle and then I got locked up. Things changed nine months ago when I had my son, Cash. I’m not living just for myself anymore—I’m living for us. I applied last year and didn’t make it through the application process, but I’m ready this year.
What is different about YouthBuild?
Since I got in to YouthBuild, there are so many opportunities for growth. I feel like I have another chance and I’m looking at school in a different way. Ya’ll [teachers/staff] don’t treat us like kids; you treat us like grown adults. I can relate to that. I respect people and I appreciate when people respect me. There are so many benefits to being here. I want to further my education and I want a better future. It’s just a really good opportunity; I love it.
What part of Mental Toughness Training was most meaningful to you?
Just coming to Mental Toughness and knowing I could do it was the best part of the two weeks. Knowing I can get up every morning and knowing that YouthBuild is something I can do. I like it. I’m there. Besides that, the 2009 graduation was also really meaningful. The smiles on the graduates faces because YouthBuild gave them a second chance made me see myself up on that stage. YouthBuild plays its part in making me a better person, now I just have to play mine. I know ya’ll got my back, and I’ve got yours. It’s a family.
What do you think your biggest challenge will be this year?
Keeping up with my attendance will probably be my biggest challenge. I know I’m a smart kid and if I put my mind to something I can achieve it. I’m well mannered and I show respect. Being here is what I need to accomplish to move forward, so I know I’ve got to be here to do well.
What do you hope to do after you graduate?
After graduation I’m interested in going to college. Before I came to YouthBuild, I had a girlfriend in college. I used to visit her and it seemed like I could really do that. Getting a look at that atmosphere made me think that going to college could be easy for me, so why was I hesitating? At this point I’m my own biggest hurdle. I have to be my own worst critic and finish this year like I know I can.