From “Years of Struggle” to a New Life of Opportunity

Just shy of high school graduation, Xavier dropped out of school so that he could move in with a girl and start working. “Dumbest decision I ever made,” the twenty-year-old says now.  “Nothing works out for you when you do that. I learned from my mistakes.”

Born in Portland, raised in Vancouver and living the past two to three years in Seattle, Xavier says he learned how hard it was to find work without a high school diploma, which consisted of graveyard shifts stocking shelves at a big box store.

“At that hour, no one wants to talk about anything,” he explains. “Everyone just wants to get the job done and leave.” His fellow co-workers did tell him one thing: “Don’t stay here. There’s so much more you can do.” Looking back at a time when he admitted that he’d given up on the world, he says, “Other people actually saw my potential.”

That led him to go back to school and enroll in a G.E.D. program where he soon learned about Juma and signed up for an information session. Despite his previous experience as a stock boy and a housekeeping gig where he cleaned apartment buildings and scraped oil off the concrete parking lot, he says it was the Juma program that truly “helped me learn about handling responsibility.” For one thing, working at CenturyLink Field required a long two-hour bus commute, demanding time management and commitment. “You wake up, do whatever you have to do in your day, and make sure you still go to work,” he says.

Having joined Juma in April earlier this year, Xavier worked as a vendor during the Seahawk games, and he continued his G.E.D. program. (He has two tests left to complete.) And through Juma, he participated in a number of program workshops as well as an internship in graphic design. “I went from a couple of years of struggle to a few months of learning new skills that I will have the rest of my life,” Xavier says. “I truly appreciate what Juma has done for me.”

Xavier adds, “Juma gave me the opportunity to do more with my life.” With his newly added work skills and experiences, Xavier received two separate offers of full-time employment at both Mod Pizza and Costco, Juma’s Seattle partners.

He recently completed his first day at Mod Pizza. “Juma,” he says, “taught me how to work.”


PHOTO CAPTION: Xavier (left), speaking at Juma Seattle’s Second-Annual All Star Benefit, in conversation with former Seattle Sounders FC player Roger Levesque.