“Sometimes, You Need a Little Push”: Raquel’s Story

At Prosperity Now, we often see how people are willing to do for their children what they won’t do for themselves. Sitting down to hear Raquel tell her story was a powerful reminder of just how strong a motivator family can be.

I met Raquel in the final weeks of her participation in the YouthBuild program in Brownsville, Texas. An innovative collaboration between the Community Development Corporation of Brownsville (CDCB) and United Way of Southern Cameron County, YouthBuild combines education, workforce training, leadership development and community service to put Brownsville’s young people on a path to success.

Raquel, a 23-year-old YouthBuild participant, had to quit school after getting pregnant with her daughter, Natalie. Like a lot of people her age, Raquel bounced around from one odd job to another, waiting tables here and there. But with the added pressure of providing for Natalie, she wanted to do more. She was afraid of quitting work to finish school, but she knew earning her high school diploma would be key to getting into college, seeking better job opportunities and more.

One day, when a friend told her about YouthBuild, Raquel was curious. But when she learned that she’d get a scholarship if she was one of the 25 students selected to participate each year, she knew she had to apply. With her daughter getting older, Raquel knew she needed to set a good example, and she was elated when she found out she’d been accepted into the program.

Of course, that excitement came with a solid dose of nervousness. After all, students in the YouthBuild program complete years of coursework in an average of nine months. The expedited timetable is to allocate two and a half days each week to workforce development training, including courses in building construction and IT. The construction part was Raquel’s favorite—and partly why she wants to go into real estate one day—but the schedule is daunting. If she could balance working full time, going to school and raising Natalie all at the same time, however, she would be rewarded handsomely—the hours worked in the YouthBuild program count as community service, making students eligible for an Americorps scholarship upon completion of the program.

And so, with a lot of motivation and a few struggles along the way, Raquel spent the better part of 2017 juggling life’s responsibilities, but never tiring. Quickly, she came to see that she was quite good at both school and her construction work. “I love it here,” Raquel told me. “I love that they really push us. I realized my potential here. Before, I didn’t try; I was never pushed to do more.” 

Pushing to do more is exactly what helped Raquel realize her potential and succeed in the YouthBuild program, and her efforts haven’t gone unnoticed. In the new year, all Raquel’s hard work will pay off in two big ways. In January, she’ll start taking classes at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley—tuition-free, thanks to YouthBuild. And soon thereafter, she’ll start interning with the real estate agent at CDCB, one of the organizations that has made YouthBuild possible.

Eventually, Raquel says, she knows she’ll reach her ultimate goal: selling condos as a real estate agent on nearby South Padre Island. Why the confidence? Because her potential was there all along. But, like Raquel told me, “sometimes you just need a little push.” YouthBuild gave her just the push she needed.

Prosperity Now is privileged to support programs like YouthBuild and organizations like CDCB and United Way of Southern Cameron County. To help us build the capacity of more organizations to help people like Raquel, please consider making a tax-deductible charitable donation to Prosperity Now.