December 20, 2019
Tykiem S. could be just another statistic. Convicted as a juvenile of drug possession and auto theft, he could be in jail right now…or worse, one of Baltimore’s 309 homicide victims in 2018. Instead, the 18 year-old is building his skills base as a Maintenance Engineer Trainee with a large residential real estate developer. Tykiem’s life dramatically changed direction last year when he was referred to Living Classrooms’ Fresh Start job-training and academic remediation program as an alternative to detention.
By all accounts, Tykiem is a positive and upbeat person that prides himself on being a hard worker, funny, and passionate about the people in his life and things he cares about. What he cares about right now is staying on track to create a solid future for himself and making his mother proud.
“I’m always looking for opportunities to better myself, said Tykiem.”
Tykiem is a recent graduate of Living Classrooms’ Fresh Start program where he spent six months immersed in education and vocational training that would prepare him for the rigors of adulthood. At Fresh Start, he earned his GED, learned marketable employment and life skills and thrived in leadership roles. In his new job he is building a reputation as a reliable employee and leader and is thinking ahead to a successful path for his future in real estate and a possible business degree.
“Fresh Start helped me change a lot. I was definitely going down the wrong path.”
Tykiem is not shy about talking about his experience growing up in neighborhoods throughout East and West Baltimore. What he learned in each place he’s lived is that opportunities for a successful future are scarce and that role models are often found modeling dangerous and illegal behavior.
After being bounced around to several high schools, where he struggled to catch up and feel truly invested in his success, he eventually decided that dropping out was a better option than failing.
Upon his first tour of the Fresh Start program, he could already tell that it was an environment that might give him what he needed: an opportunity to work with his hands in a structured setting and a support system that was invested in his success.
“The staff wants the best for everybody. Even stuff you’re not getting at home, they’ll help make sure you have it. There’s love here. You feel it the moment you walk in the door.”
Beyond teaching the students common core curriculum and job readiness skills, the Fresh Start staff are focused on building positivity and showing the guys that there is a better option for their future. Once the guys are bought in and understand what needs to be changed, it becomes easier to get them to change their behaviors to support that goal.
“They teach us responsibility, punctuality, and they set high standards for us to meet. You don’t get that from everybody.”
Tykiem became a leader among his peers – using his motivational skills to keep projects on track – behavior he’s modeled after instructors and former students who have paved the way for him. He boasts of his newfound ability to manage his own time, create a resume, be proactive, and speak in front of a crowd.
“I always thought about being a leader but I never knew what it took to be one and how to do it, and now I’m considered one.”
This story could have ended with Tykiem becoming another statistic. Instead, he is on the path towards realizing his potential thanks to his fresh start.