Stories from the DEG
Taco Bell was my first job. I started as a customer service cashier, working both at Taco Bell and its sister business, Long John Silver. It was interesting and fun. At Taco Bell, I was moved to full time cashier (7pm to 3 am), then I started learning the food service side of the business. I mastered deep frying, oil filtering and other skills. Afterward, they moved me to Long John Silvers for an opening, where I was promoted to Customer Service Team Leader, but they failed to give me the listed pay raise for this position. Long John Silvers didn’t pay overtime and they cut my hours. I wasn’t making enough money to cover my bills anymore, so I moved on to a different job. I had several jobs after this, each time gaining more experience and refining my skills, but not making the money I needed or advancing because I lacked a diploma.
In 2013, I lost my job at California Dry Cleaners, a job I held for four years, and everything started going downhill from there. I was unable to find other work, so I lost my apartment and became homeless. Life on the streets was scary and hard, but I wasn’t a beggar. Every day I worked hard picking up cans & bottles to survive. Every night before I went to sleep, I prayed that one day an angel would come along and help me — and one day, an angel did. Her name was Lynn, and when she found me on the street, she talked to me, heard my story, then she brought me to a transition home called Dakota EcoGarden. Unfortunately, the week before I moved in, Lynn passed away; it hurt me because I had never met anyone with her amazing heart — to love a total stranger like me. I love her for that and for bringing me to the Dakota EcoGarden, where I lived for six months.
During my stay, I was able to get healthcare, have a safe place to sleep at night and I had access to the internet so I could continue looking for a job. I’ve been seeking work every day, but what I’ve found out is that no matter my experience, the job offers didn’t come because I didn’t have a diploma. I felt more horrible each time I was turned down — realizing my experience didn’t help me at all. I’ve looked for work in various fields, always willing to take whatever was offered. I would take any job to make a little money for now and work to make more later.
The reason I didn’t get my high school diploma is I didn’t pass my English exit exam. When I failed the exam, it felt horrible that I’d let my parents down, even though that was the only exam I didn’t pass. My ending high school credit was 290; the Fresno Unified School District requires 230 credits to pass. In the end, credits don’t matter if you don’t pass all exit exams.
Right now, I’m staying with my older brother because my parents moved to North Carolina. My brother helped me get a car in order to look for jobs and attend school; I’d really like to get my diploma so I can get a good job and start giving back to him. My goals for the future are to gain my diploma, receive a quality education in a field I enjoy, get a good-paying job and not have to rely on anyone else to support me.