Jobany Tirado — A Success Story from
On Point for College…
I was born in Bronx, New York and the youngest of three children. I never had a stable place I could call home. I was raised in a single parent household where moving from city to city was the norm until I was about 16 years of age. My mother would move us every time she felt her kids could have more resources as well as support that could guide us in the right path. We also moved a lot because of family tragedies that she felt moving close to other family members would help alleviate the pain for the loss. Having experienced these losses early in life, never allowed me to imagine what my future would be like. My upbringing from childhood until I was an adult was nothing exciting. I lived in severe poverty. It was so bad that we would have to eat very small portions in order to ensure we could eat the next day. At a very early age I got involved with the street life.
My educational lessons came from my mother during her college years and my aunt during my time living in Loiza, Puerto Rico. Even though my mother’s side of the family is Latino it was a challenge to speak Spanish fluently because I was born and raised in the United States. I had a really tough time in school because I couldn’t understand much of anything. Drug addiction was also the norm within my family as I remember. My mother’s sister was heavily addicted to Heroin, but was willing to teach me how to read & write in Spanish. Her first words to me when I told her it was difficult and I didn’t want to learn the language any more were, “never give up on yourself. Always remember that education is power.” The second educational lesson involved observing my mother crying because she couldn’t understand or complete her college class assignment. I remember going up to her as a young man and encouraging her to keep trying because English at that point in time was a significant barrier for my mother – one that would make her path to success a tough one. Those moments where I saw her struggle with seemingly impossible barriers would serve as motivation for me to never settle for less.
The motivation to live a legal and productive life was embedded in me but it wasn’t strong enough to keep me away from the streets. I became a juvenile delinquent. However, things got worse in my life before they got better and education was the last thing I was thinking about. I was arrested my sophomore year in high school and my interest for education was slowly diminishing. My mother immediately saw this as a red flag and thought it would be best if we moved from Boston, Massachusetts to Syracuse, New York, where most of her family lived. I really didn’t want to move but I knew that if I stayed I would’ve been either dead or in prison. I decided to come to Syracuse, however I did my best not to adapt to the new environment. Playing basketball was always my form of therapy. It always took me away from stress, bad times, and most importantly it took me away from negative thinking. I became very good at playing the sport to the point that I believed it was my way out of this life of poverty. It was also a way to interact with other people and decrease the resistance to adapting to a new environment.
I didn’t get the big picture about school until I wasn’t able to graduate from high school because I did not pass a regents exam. I was torn, confused, ashamed and angry at myself for wasting my time on the streets in my earlier high school years. This would all change for the better once I met Sam Rowser and Ginny Donohue in the spring of 2001 at Hamilton Boys & Girls Club. They would stand in the gym or hallways to reach out to the youth in between recreational games. They asked me about my future and what I was going to do after high school. I was so discouraged that I didn’t graduate from high school that my response was negative. I told them that school was not for me. After having a brief discussion about not graduating because I could not pass a regent’s exam, Sam presented another alternative that could help me attend college. He mentioned the Ability to Benefit Program which would grant me the opportunity to earn my high school diploma as well as an Associate’s degree at SUNY Canton. Once I got into school, not only did I keep in mind the constant reminders of my mother’s perspective on education, but I used the love I had for the game of basketball to help keep me focused while in school. I saw Sam at the first Canton Basketball game and I asked him if he came to see at Canton? He replied, “I came to see you play.” That gave me so much power and motivation that I worked hard to make sure I pass classes in order to play the following semester.
The urge to play basketball and actually be a part of a positive group of individuals who have a common goal of succeeding in life was something new for me. I played basketball for two semesters at SUNY Canton where I was Honorable Mentioned, All-Region, All-Conference and MVP of the team. I found a way to turn the difficult circumstances of my life into something that far exceeded my own expectations. During the summer of 2003, I received a call from Ginny to meet with her to discuss a possible full Scholarship to a NCAA Division II school. This opportunity gave me a chance to play basketball at a more competitive level. The transition from the streets to attending college helped me realize that basketball was a tool that I used to motivate myself to stay in school.
My main support systems were my mother & On Point for College. Over the years my mother has provided me with vital lessons to be successful in life which were: hard work, self-respect, and to never let anyone take my freedom away. These tools along with On Point turned my life around for the better. Not only did On Point for College assist me in getting into college, bought me books that my financial aid didn’t cover, but Ginny and Sam were there when I was in need of guidance. I never would have imagined being involved with a program that supported me throughout the entire college process. They helped me achieve my goals in earning my high school diploma, earning my Associate’s degree, earning my Bachelor’s in social work and playing Division II basketball. On Point also helped me out after graduating college with workshops on building interview skills, resume writing and important ways to keep employment. Being a part of this program served as my motivation throughout college. Most of my motivation came from meeting individuals within the On Point program who were from similar backgrounds, went through similar experiences and still wanted to better themselves. I knew that if they could overcome those hard times then I could also overcome those obstacles.
“From application to graduation”, is usually what is said to students when they first join On Point. However, On Point has been there even after graduation. I made a lot of mistakes but I also took the time to learn from them. On Point has given me the opportunity to work as a College Access Advisor where I get to work with young students in eliminating some of the same barriers that could have prevented me from getting into college. As a mentor to my students and as a proud father, I carry all of the lessons I learned throughout my life and try to pass them along to others. My intent is not to preach but to clearly illustrate to everyone that I am a living example of an On Point student who hit rock bottom and with the support from On Point was able to transform the negative energy into positive. Success can be obtained; the only person stopping you from obtaining it is you.