When Mario Castor learned that he was selected for the Workforce Solutions Capital Area (Capital Area) Excellence through Individual Achievement (Youth) award in Austin, he hesitated to even attend the Capital Area October 2015 awards presentation luncheon. Until he heard his accomplishments read out loud, he had not realized how much he had achieved in the last three years. He walked away from the luncheon with a great sense of achievement.
Mario overcame some tough circumstances. A high school dropout, he was struggling to make a living and support his family through a minimum-wage, fast-food job, when he realized he had to make some changes.
“I was hanging out with the wrong friends and I faced not being able to finish high school. I had little personal motivation and I questioned my existence [in life]. I was a shy person and full of anger, but inside me there was a flower that wanted to bloom.”
Mario’s inner desires began to take root when he found resources that not only guided him with an education plan, but also provided marketable skills that laid a foundation for employment. He registered with the Texas Workforce Commission’s WorkInTexas.com job database through Capital Area and began preparing not just for a job, but a career.
Through Capital Area’s Youth Employment Partnership he connected with American YouthWorks (AYW) where young, low-income people (ages 14-21) are exposed to work-ready and life skills through training programs and services that help them achieve their goals. Some of the programs and services include: GED test preparation or high school graduation guidance, job skills training, job placement, paid work experience, and community service opportunities. AYW provides ongoing community resources and offers project-based enrichment programs to help young people succeed.
With the help of nutrients from these resources, the flower began to grow. Over three years, Mario participated in 456 hours of training and service at AYW. He learned construction skills that included electrical wiring and air conditioning service and installation. He enrolled at Austin Community College, and within three months earned a welding certification. He continued to excel in various industry skills which led to a higher wages.
Mario is now a certified Roofing Torch Applicator working full-time for a commercial construction company and is on an in-demand career path that allows him to support his family.
“Workforce Solutions Capital Area is proud of Mario’s many accomplishments,” said Capital Area’s Deputy Executive Director Tamara Atkinson. “Through his story, we are reminded of how valuable case management and support services are in assisting clients to reach their goals.”
When asked how he would advise other young people struggling to find their career path, he suggested that services through Capital Area’s youth partnerships can really help someone achieve beyond their expectations.
“There are people who can help. Look to Goodwill (Goodwill Career & Technical Academy) and AYW. In my family, I am the first to graduate from high school. I did it at 20 years old, but I did it! AYW became my second family and they continue to support me,” Mario shared. “I can rely on them.”
Rarely, do you see a flower in bloom standing alone. Mario’s life-shift has inspired others as well. At least a dozen of his friends have been motivated to improve their own life choices and he has laid the foundation for a better future for his six-year old son, who he now helps with his schoolwork.
“Mario’s story inspires me. Keeping young people engaged is a big part of my job, but at the end of the day, it’s their successes that keep me motivated and hopeful of the future,” said Vanessa Perez, Mario’s case manager from AYW. “Mario’s success is what happens when partnerships in the community come together, and invest in our young people.”
In addition to being a helpful dad, Mario recently served on the AYW Alumni Circle where he is able to connect with and motivate the new students in the program so that they too can blossom and reach their potential.
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