“The only thing that overcomes hard luck is hard work” – Harry Golden

Gavin Saldivar enrolled in Southwest Training Services, Inc’s In-School Youth/WIA program after being referred by his guidance counselor for both job and career development in February 2015.

The first time I met with Gavin he had a plan but did not know how to execute it because of obstacles he felt he would not overcome. Gavin was dealing with major depression issues since he was in 8th grade. He was able to mask this by doing what was needed to get by. He stated that when he entered his sophomore year at Washington High School, his depression worsened because he was dealing with the deaths of grandfather and great-grandmother within the same month. These deaths left him completely devastated and vulnerable because they were two people that he felt he could communicate with. With the help of some close friends, he was able to complete his sophomore and junior years.

During his senior year, his anxiety rose to the level of almost committing suicide. He stated that he felt constant pressure by family members that almost caused this. This pressure made him lose the ability to complete projects that were necessary to graduate from high school.

After meeting with Gavin several times and developing a concrete plan that would lessen the stress and anxiety of school work and projects, he was able to move forward. Those meetings consisted of improving on filling out job applications in order to secure employment, exploring careers and visiting colleges and technical schools. He also completed a financial literacy component which informed him of the options needed for scholarships and financial aid. This component also gave him the skills necessary to learn budgeting management skills. This led Gavin to set up his own checking and savings account.

Due to an unfortunate chain of events that occurred earlier in the school year, Gavin was not able to walk with his class at graduation. Through perseverance he obtained his diploma at a school board meeting. During his meeting, he also had the honor of receiving the Scholastic Silver Key for a poem that he submitted earlier in the year.

Gavin was able to secure employment this past summer with the Washington county Recorder of deeds as a clerical aide. He gained skills and knowledge needed to thrive in the workplace. Because he exceeded expectations throughout the summer, he received and outstanding performance award. This was based on perfect attendance, work ethic and exceptional attitude.

Gavin is now enrolled at Community College of Allegheny County with a major in History Education. His goal upon graduation is to obtain a career as a History teacher where he can influence the lives of future generations.

I have chosen to nominate Stephanie Weidner-Yetter for the youth award. Stephanie has proven the ability to face challenges head on and come out on top. While still in high school, Stephanie became a young, single mother at the age of 17. Stephanie chose to continue her schooling by enrolling in an online high school diploma program through Penn Foster while she raised her son. During this time, Stephanie was able to raise her son, complete her school work, achieve good grades, and hold a part-time job at the local library. Stephanie has always been goal driven and did not let her pregnancy stop her from achieving her goal. While Stephanie faced many obstacles getting to where she is today, she has come out of top due to her excellent work ethic and the desire to provide a great life for her two-year-old son. Upon high school graduation, she continued working at the library for a few months until she decided to obtain her Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certification. Stephanie obtained an entry-level position at the local Golden Living Nursing Home and Rehabilitation Therapy Center, when she then started her classes to become a CNA. Upon her CNA graduation, she the obtained a new position at Golden Living, where she has now been working as a CNA for the last six months.

Stephanie enrolled into our In-School Youth Program in March 2012 for a job and career development. While I have not personally worked with Stephanie throughout her entire enrollment in our program, the first opportunity I had to work with Stephanie was in the summer of 2012, when she enrolled into our Summer Work Experience program. I watched as Stephanie’s work ethic grew exponentially, as she also began to develop into the mature young adult she is today. That summer, Stephanie was provided with resources to develop her work ethic where she took on any challenge and job that was presented to her. As a teenager, she took direction and advice well, only working to be a more successful summer employee. Since then, I have also had the opportunity to work with Stephanie throughout her senior year of high school and the year and a half since. When I first began working with Stephanie again in August 2014, I immediately saw an even greater difference in her: she was more mature, she accepted life’s responsibilities gracefully as a young mother, high school student, and employee, and she was constantly looking for more opportunities to develop herself as she entered the workforce. Throughout her years in our program, Stephanie was provided with many resources; for example, resume building, career preparation guides, and interviewing skills, all of which have helped Stephanie grow into the successful young adult she is today.

I believe Stephanie is deserving of this award as she has chosen to overcome the obstacles in her life and become  a successful, working, young adult.