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  • C ortizChristopher was born in Lawrence Massachusetts but moved to the Bronx before his first birthday. Christopher’s and his 5 siblings were raised by a single mother. When Christopher was 12 years old, he was expelled from New York Public Schools for bringing a weapon to school and was enrolled in an alternative district school. During 8th grade, Christopher was being recruited by local gangs, and his mother was struggling to maintain the family while working two jobs.  Christopher’s grandmother fought for custody and he moved back to Lawrence.

    After spending 3 years in the LPS RISE program, Christopher was able to work his way into taking classes at Lawrence High-School. It was the first time since the seventh grade where Christopher was back in a traditional school setting. Christopher picked up a new charge during the last week of his senior year, failed his math course, and was forced to go to summer school. After the summer session, he passed the math MCAS and in August of 2019, he received his High-School Diploma.

    With just a High-School Diploma but little work experience, Christopher struggled to find a job. Like so many of his peers, he found himself in out of court where he was approached by a SISU outreach worker. Since arriving to SISU, he has been highly motivated. He one of the first to arrive and is often one of the last young people in the building.

    Christopher enrolled in the money management, signal success, workforce development, career explorations, art, OSHA, and permit classes at the SISU Center, and is working his way through the program. Christopher received his OSHA certification, completed the driving permit class in late 2019 and is scheduled to take his permit test.  Once Christopher completes his permit and gets his license, he will have conquered two of the goals in his Individual Success Plan.
  • VidalVidal grew up in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. As beautiful as the island is, Vidal was aware from a very young age that Santo Domingo had a lot of problems. To make matter worse his family wasn’t well of by any means, and often relied on what other family members sent back to offset costs. The unemployment rates were unbearable, and basic services such as electricity, water, and public transportation were extremely unreliable.

    While Vidal had dreamed of moving to the United States, he had a rough time assimilating to a new school, new people and even a new culture. Although Lawrence has a huge Spanish speaking population, he felt like an outsider, which made the already difficult transition even harder. Vidal didn’t want to go to school and had begun to develop some troubling habits. While he wasn’t yet involved with gangs or drugs, one gang in particular had peaked his interest; a gang that was made up mostly of Dominicans would definitely make him feel like he was back home.

    A friend had told Vidal about the SISU center and how he could get help with a lot of things he was working towards, like becoming a US citizen. While at SISU Vidal has taken the lead on several building projects, constructed a resume, completed his Osha 10, and studied hard in his English learners and citizenship prep class. He has worked incredibly hard and at the end of 2019, he became a US citizen.
  • Sandy Contreres LYTWhen Sandy walks into SISU he delivers an energy that could light up an entire room. At SISU he is our one and only registered jokester and he makes sure to live up to his reputation every single day.  In a city surrounded by gang-related activities, it is easy for youth to get off to a bad start. Sandy undoubtedly was one of those youths on a path to self-destruction driven by the bad influence that encompassed his developing and overly curious mind. He left the Dominican Republic when he was 11, was suspended for the first time at 14, and by 18 he was arrested and serving time.  

    Despite his troubles, Sandy graduated from High school Sandy. However, like so many others, he lacked a plan. He knew he needed to make money but he wasn't really motivated or truly interested in getting a full time job. His lack of direction and choice of peers steered him into gang life. He felt like selling drugs and gang banging was what he was meant to do and gave it his all. Sandy was eventually arrested for trafficking and selling drugs. After serving his time, he was released on probationary conditions to attend the SISU program. 

    Sandy is a born leader; he is a bright, focused, and determined young man. After living through the horrors of gang life and losing friends to the streets, he chose to embark on a different path, using his gifts and talents to better his life. In early 2019, he was given the opportunity to enroll in Skills Build, a 6 week classroom and hands-on apprenticeship training where he was able to explore different trades such as welding and masonry to find the perfect career match. He has become more ambitious since his training and now has bigger dreams to one day own his own business and hire youth that have similar stories to that of his own and giving them a second chance that they deserve. 
  • Merik Legette LYTGrowing with a single mom in a Spanish-speaking city, Merik struggled with identifying who he was and where he fit in. He wasn't light skinned enough to fit in with the white kids and was not dark enough nor did he speak Spanish to fit in with the Latino/ Black Students. He constantly felt like an outcast, and became a tough kid looking for attention in all the wrong places. In school, he struggled to focus on academics and found himself getting into trouble.

    Drugs were on his radar since the age of 8 and he learned they were a way to make quick money.  However, his street success was short lived and he was soon arrested. His already struggling relationship with his family fell apart, and by the age of 18, he was homeless and without a plan. Merik joined a gang in order to protect himself and was soon back to selling drugs. Merik was searching for some sort of change, some way to get out of the street, and get his life together.

    In 2017, Merrick discovered the SISU Center. The staff support helped him get back on his feet and he was able to get an apartment with his girlfriend.He continues working to overcome past barriers thanks in part to the personal and professional skills development and concepts he has learned at the SISU Center. In early 2019, Merik was chosen to participate in the Skills Build program where found the confidence he needs to move ahead towards career readiness.

    Today, Merik serves as an inspiration to other SISU participants to push themselves out of their comfort zones.
  • FredericFrederic was born one of 11 children in the Dominican Republic. At the age of 11, Frederic came to the United States with very little education and little grasp of the English language. Frederic’s parents worked hard to enroll him into the Lawrence Public Schools and made sure his education became a top priority. However, outside of his life at home and in school, Frederic started getting involved in the streets and all that was associated with that lifestyle. Frederic’s goal was to graduate high school and he managed to juggle his life in the street and in the classroom, and graduated from high school in 2015.

    Despite graduating high school, Frederic struggled to find a job and began selling drugs. When he realized that selling drugs wasn’t enough, he followed in his father’s footsteps and began working in a factory. With very little job skills and training, he struggled with the workload and quit after only six months and was soon back to selling drugs and spending his time in the streets. 
    At the age of 21, Frederic was arrested for the first time and charged with assault and battery. He was placed on probation and as a part of his probation conditions, was ordered to enroll with SISU and participate within the programs classes.

    When Frederic enrolled with SISU in July 2018, he knew that he had to get his life together. He completed the Signal Success program, worked on his resume  and received one of the highest scores in a mock interview session.Frederic has worked hard to achieve the goals in individual success plan (ISP) and. He participated in the SISU drivers’ permit class received his permit in November of 2019. He spent time in the SISU computer lab working to complete his OSHA 10 certification and was soon a regular on the SISU morning construction crew.

    In early December of 2019, Frederick applied for a job at a local Hardware Store. He was prepared for the interview with an updated resume and the confidence needed to get hired. After his second interview, he was hired as a cashier/sales associate. Frederic is currently working full time and is saving up money for driving classes with the goal of getting his license.
  • cindiaIn 2009, Cindia was attending college in the Dominican Republic to become an accountant. Her mother had come to the US before her and had filed paperwork for her to come as well. She came knowing very little of the languages and culture. Learning the language has been a challenge for Cindia but knowing that learning the English is the only way she can achieve her American Dream, she has participated in the ESL program at the Quintana Center.

    When she came to the US, Cindia had to put her dream of becoming an accountatn a side, to help her mother. She began working low level in order for me to make a living. She has worked cleaning house/offices/hospitals; she has worked in factories. She had to put school on hold because “life is for those who work for it and want to achieve their dreams.”

    In 2018, Cindia decided to become a US citizen, go back to school start working towards “her American Dream.” Her American Dream consist of buying her own house, and becoming a daycare provider
  • gelenGelen came to Lawrence from the Dominican Republic in 2015. She participated in English as a Second Language at the Quintana Family Center from 2015 to 2018 and completed all of the ESL levels the Quintana Center is able to offer. Gelen is currently working with the Center Manager to complete her N-400 Application for Naturalization and participated in the Financial Literacy for Newcomers program.

    Gelen will soon be enrolled at Northern Essex Community College, where she plans to major in Finance, which she had studied in the Dominican Republic. With her skills and confidence in her ability to speak English, Gelen has been able to create a new direction for herself

© 2018  Lawrence Prospera

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