PHOENIX (FOX 10) — Education is often said to be the key to success, but not everyone can afford to go to college. Year Up Arizona is helping one graduate make strides no one else in his family has been able to make.
Diego Wences Hernandez is living what many describe as the American Dream. He owns a beautiful home, has a great job, and it's all thanks to Year Up Arizona.
"I wanted to pursue community college in Phoenix but I wasn't quite sure how I was going to pay for it, I wasn't familiarized with scholarships or grants or anything like that," said Hernandez.
His counselor suggested he apply and while he says he thought it was too good to be true, he also saw the opportunity the workforce program could provide.
"The requirements are 18 to 24-years-old, high school diploma or GED and a thing we call grit and that is we screen for individuals who understand that while talent is evenly distributed in this country opportunity is not, and they fight, and they work for what they believe they can do," said Kim Owens with Year Up Arizona.
Year Up launched in 2015 to connect low-income young adults with livable-wage careers.
Motivated individuals in Maricopa County take part in six months of professional and technical skills classes followed by a six-month internship at a top Valley employer such as American Express, TruWest Credit Union, Bank of America, PayPal and more.
"This last cycle 84 percent of the young adults who interned converted those into full-time job opportunities," said Owens.
"I was matched with Bank of America and I remember being one of the first people, I believe that we were told way before all the classes where we were going to intern," said Hernandez.
Two years later Diego is an operation control analyst, the first person in his family to go to college and own a home.
For more information about Year Up Arizona, visit https://www.yearup.org/arizona.