Student Story: Lashawn

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Lashawn had been a straight A student and was accepted into John Jay College. But despite her hard work and ambitions, she didn’t feel prepared for the real world. She hadn’t had guidance from her family about how to turn her aspirations into reality, to form her own identity, or find her happiness. She was vulnerable, and fell into string of abusive relationships, dropped out of school, and had three children with a violent man. One day, she realized she wanted to change her life and do better for her family, so she packed up her children and moved to a domestic violence shelter. She couldn’t get the traction she needed to finish her degree or find a fulfilling job. She felt like a failure, like she was out of control, like there was no way out.

Lashawn came to STRIVE to improve her computer skills and maybe get a job, but found so much more.

“Not only did I get job skills,” Lashawn said, “I got myself back. I learned the importance of taking initiative, doing my best, and having the right attitude. But most importantly, I gained self-confidence. STRIVE forced me to look at myself and understand where I was and how I got there.”

By the time she graduated, Lashawn was confident. She knew her worth, and she wasn’t going to give up. She moved out of the shelter, put her children in school, finished her own college degree, and found a job at the New York Department of Investigations, where she is still working today.

“Now I smile all the time,” said Lashawn. “And I want to thank STRIVE for helping make a future for me and all who will follow me.”

Student Story: Erick


Erick started working when he was 12 and has supported himself since the age of 16. But when he became a father, he knew he needed to do more to give his family the life he wanted for them. He came across a few job opportunities, but they weren’t enough. Struggling to make ends meet, Erick found himself in the shelter system and didn’t know what to do—until he learned about STRIVE.

Initially, Erick thought STRIVE would just be another program. He told his program director he was a cook, and to his surprise, the director answered, “Well, it sounds like you have the skills. Now all we need to do is help employers see that.” It was then that Erick realized STRIVE would do more than help him find a job; they would help him build the career of his dreams.

STRIVE provided Erick with clothing, toys, and a stroller for his children. While in our program, he learned to build healthy relationships with his family, provide for them, and start saving for their futures. He found jobs that allowed him to use his passion for cooking, now working at Whole Foods and moving up through the ranks to become a supervisor.

For the last seven years, Erick has been a STRIVE ambassador, speaking at our Stand Up For Dads event in 2017 and now attending the 35th Anniversary Gala to share his story. Erick has been able to create a life for himself and his family, and STRIVE has been with him every step of the way.

Student Story: Romy

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Romelia moved to the United States at age 17 after a terrorist attack at her school in Peru. She believed the United States was a land of opportunity, but with without knowing English, she couldn’t get the job or education she needed to take part in that opportunity. She was stuck—until one day, she saw an advertisement for STRIVE.

STRIVE taught Romy about professionalism and the working culture in the U.S. Using what she learned, Romy was able to achieve all she had dreamed of when she left Peru. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree and is working towards her Master’s. She bought a house, became a U.S. citizen, and worked her way up to a six figure salary at HealthCare Partners in Long Island.

Romy has never forgotten STRIVE. She has worked for STRIVE, has hired STRIVE graduates, and will be an ambassador at our 35th Anniversary Gala in November!

“I still live by the lessons I learned at STRIVE, and I share them with my family, my friends, and my clients,” Romy says. “The impact that STRIVE makes in one person’s life ripples out to so many others. So many of my dreams have come true, and I owe so much of it to STRIVE.”

STRIVE Celebrates the Life of Co-Founder Samuel A. Hartwell

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This weekend, STRIVE celebrated the life of co-founder Samuel A. Hartwell at his memorial service in Massachusetts.

Sam brought a passion, persistence, and energy that helped STRIVE grow and thrive. His dedication and leadership ensured our success with over 75,000 graduates and their families over 35 years.

Sam passed away on July 11, 2019. We remember him as we live the mission every day. Without Sam, there would be no STRIVE.

Read Sam’s obituary:

Student Story: Kerry


Kerry wanted to build a future he could be excited about, but facing a four-year sentence on Rikers, he felt like he couldn’t. His facilitator at STRIVE convinced him to try.

Kerry joined our youth program and quickly proved how dedicated he was. He came to class professionally dressed every day and gave it his all during internships and temporary work assignments. Due to his hard work and exceptional growth in character, Kerry’s sentence was reduced from four years to just eight months.

Kerry has now been home for a month. He has a job at Friends of Island Academy, where he refers his clients to STRIVE, saying STRIVE is “the best out there for young adults.” He is taking college courses at Columbia University and creating the future he always wanted for himself—and his five-year-old daughter. He is grateful to STRIVE for never leaving his side and giving him as many chances as he needed to “get it together,” and we are grateful to him for being a great youth ambassador and for remembering us during every step of his path to success.