Head Start alumnus Jorge Juan Rodriguez V shares his inspiring Head Start story. He is the son of two Puerto Rican migrants who came to the United States without knowledge of the language, culture, or setting; all they knew was that America was the land of prosperity and opportunity. Since his parents only spoke Spanish, when he was young he didn’t speak English. Amidst this adversity, he was enrolled in Head Start.
We become so that others can become has been my motto for years. As I look back on what has contributed to my success today, The Project Discovery Program comes to mind. I entered the program while in middle school and continued until High School. Project Discovery contributed to my success in many ways by providing me the guidance to become an educated and distinguished gentleman. Project Discovery was more than just a program, but an adventure and a teacher that cared. I always wondered how the program’s director Mrs. Hermelinda Miller put up with so many kids. She was a tough, but gentle lady who positively influenced and shaped many young students to pursue higher education. I enjoyed the different workshops through the program as well as the college trips we attended. No one ever took me on a trip to college except for Project Discovery and I’m very grateful for the experience because they took the time out to really care and help me make decisions in my life that were beneficial to my future.
There were great things in store for my future as I progressed in life through the help of Project Discovery. My first achievement was receiving the President’s Award at Hampton High, for outstanding leadership and being a model student. From there I graduated in the top 5% of my class and went to college. Obtaining my college degree was a great success for me, but my family as well. After completing college I went to Theology School and obtained a Bachelor’s in Ministry and a degree in Child Psychology. Now I am in school again furthering my education in leadership and management. I have positively influenced many young people through my church, at different schools and in my community to stay in school. I’ve volunteered with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program, worked with the youth at my job and helped with the United Way. Currently I am a motivational speaker specializing in developing our young people, a licensed minister motivating others on a daily basis to become a better person in life and I have started my own company helping others to achieve success through business and life coaching.
I will never forget who helped me to become who I am today. Project Discovery will always be that source of caring, motivating and educating others to progress in life.
Ms. Zykeria Marshall came to enroll with the VA CARES program after being referred to us by ACCESS in January, 2017. ACCESS is a program that works with the LGBT community in helping them get housing, medical, and transportation assistance. Ms. Marshall is one of our many Transgender females who have come to us for assistance over the last year.
Ms. Marshall was incarcerated for 10 years. She stated that when she was released, she knew what she had to do to get back on track. She was determined and committed to changing her life around. One of the things she did was enroll in VA CARES. When Ms. Marshall came into our office to learn about VA CARES, she was also seeking assistance with getting furniture for her apartment. She had already found a place to live, showing her determination and commitment to get her life back on track. Ms. Marshall was given several leads that didn’t really pan out, but she did not get discouraged or give up. Her attitude was so positive that it became infectious. Ms. Marshall then went on to Craigslist and found people that were giving furniture away for free. The staff at HRCAP’s VA CARES was able to assist her with some personal items. Again, showing her determination and commitment, Ms. Marshall enrolled with the EleVate Program to get training in the Medical Assistance field. She will complete her training in June 2017, and then go on to do her internship. Ms. Marshall comes to VA CARES support groups and shares with other participants about the different opportunities she has been able to take advantage of, such as EleVate.
Ms. Marshall is the type of person that is willing to listen and take advice. She is also quick to give of her time to help others. Ms. Marshall has shared in the support groups how her and her family had problems when she first came home, and that it’s been a process, but she now has better communication with her family. In addition, Ms. Marshall calls our office 3 to 4 times a week to keep staff up-to-date with her progress, and when she comes to our office she always has a smile on her face. Attitude is everything. Ms. Marshall’s hobby is cooking, and she loves to cook and post the pictures of the meals on facebook. She is so excited about how much she has accomplished since coming home.
Ms. Marshall is an example of SUCCESS! She is showing how self-determination and commitment, along with support from programs like VA CARES, and taking advantage of available opportunities, can have a positive impact in helping yourself get back on track.