Breaking the Cycle

Nine months ago, I would have never guessed any organization would have such an unforgettable impact on my life. Mile High Youth Corps gave me a chance to break the vicious path my family possessed. I heard about MHYC years ago, when my older brother received multiple calls from a recruiter trying to get him in some school classes. I knew that there was some programs to help youth; what I didn’t realize is the small things that happen here are a major factor to the community, just like all the programs helping thousands of residences in the Colorado area.

My mother and father both had a tough life without parental support. They wanted to give me the opportunities they feel they never got. They kept me busy in the summers keeping me in sports always. I now know the purpose… as far as I can remember someone from my neighborhood would be murdered or robbed every week. This is one of the neighborhoods Mile High Youth Corps’ Energy and Water Program services. Now as an employee I give back to the community I grew up in, by scheduling appointments for the improvements in clients’ and family members homes.

Family first is one of the main morals I have been raised on. Out of the males in my family, less than a handful have graduated from High School and the rest were drop-outs. I was the first male to go to college in fifteen years, the last was my cousin who was shot and killed by a cop. My older brother is serving a ten-year sentence in prison, he was the reason I heard about Mile High Youth Corps. My grandfather did twenty-three years in prison. Out of my eight uncles, seven of them are (at least two-time) convicted felons. From the seven uncles who are felons, four of them are serving life sentences. One is serving seven life sentences by himself. The only uncle who is not a felon is physically and mentally handicapped, but has graduated and worked thirteen years straight.

It feels like just yesterday that I wanted to be like all my family members who had money and respect. As a teen blessed with a good head, as well as a family full of connections, I thought I was starting this path for me. I was wrong, it was already started for me at this time, and I noticed I didn’t start the path as a teenager at all. It was when I was a little boy looking up to my elders who were living this fast life. Forcing me to realize the whole time I was making money and having power my younger brother was idolizing me, wanting to follow in my steps. The person who I would never imagine being a criminal…

I realized I had to make a change and fast. What I needed to do was leave the criminal fast lifestyle with money and power that I learned to love. I needed to show my brother that there is a different option for us then to go to jail. When I applied to Mile High Youth Corps I noticed things working in my first weeks that I never dreamed possible. I saw people in the programs that had a tough life, but were here to get help in order to succeed in life and weren’t ashamed of that decision. I noticed members of rival gangs getting along, I met some people that I would have been enemies with in the streets but here we became good friends. This showed me all it takes is an authentic want for improvement, and with a little help like Mile High Youth Corps, anything is possible. I now have been working for 9 months as an Administrative Assistant and am very grateful for being able to have the opportunity to show my little brother we can choose future better than jail.

Sam Vasquez, Operations Alumni Mentor

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