Student Story

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: 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.”

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.