Natalie’s journey with Sharefest has been nothing short of remarkable! Initially cautious, she bravely opened her heart to our instructors and mentors, and the transformation has been awe-inspiring. We’re immensely grateful for her trust in our team. Natalie isn’t just a joy to be around; she’s a true powerhouse! Whether it’s excelling in the classroom, shining at galas, or confidently addressing our board, she rises to every challenge with unwavering determination.

Below is a written version of her speech she presented to our board in early February.

“The place that raised me and where I grew up is a beautiful city named Wilmington. The heart of the harbor. But this beautiful city has its flaws. To gang affiliation, murders, car pursuits, drug trafficking, etc. Hello, my name is Natalie and I am a first-generation daughter and a proud Chicana. My story starts at the age of 15 in freshmen year where I had gotten into a physical altercation that led to me almost being convicted into the juvenile system. I got a second chance at school which was a continuation school called Avalon High School. I went in not knowing the opportunities I was soon going to endure. I had no idea what to do after high school, no idea towards colleges, no guidance.

I was put into a Career Development class that was led by Mr. Guerrero. I call him Mr. G. He shortly offered me a mentorship program that was free of cost. He guided me and asked me questions I never once occurred of thinking. It opened up new doors with being able to now brainstorm different career paths and colleges. I went into my Spring semester at Avalon and have been able to accomplish major educational goals. Such as being able to graduate a year early. Being able to change to my graduation year from 2025 to 2024 was such an outstanding feeling. I was now considered a junior in high school, Mr. G then introduced me to a new opportunity which was a Summer Internship that Sharefest was having. I was skeptical since I never even heard the word “internship”. After some questioning and thinking I decided to agree to it. I soon met Ms. Liberty in this process and she made me feel confident with my decision. I then met Ms. Lissette who helped me with my paperwork process. I was confident this process would be so difficult but the support I received made this process extremely easy.

I started my first day on June 20th, 2023. I was nervous. I was introduced to more people who were a part of Sharefest such as Ms. Gretchen, Ms. Koana, Ms. Phonntya, Ms. Laura, and Ms. Tiffaney. They all welcomed me with open arms and a passion for support. I had many good memories and lessons. Not just regular lessons, REAL WORLD lessons. Lessons you would think high school would teach. I would like to now tell you what Sharefest has taught me. First, I was provided a working wardrobe that I used for mock interviewers & was able to expand my networking during those mock interviews. Secondly, I’d like to give credit to those who helped me, Ms. Gretchen taught social-emotional learning, Ms. Phonntya and Ms. Tiffaney provided resources if needed as well as explained to me what W-2 forms are and how to cash checks. Sounds silly that I didn’t know but nobody ever taught me. I’d like to point out I was only 17 years old. Ms. Laura and Ms. Koana would always give me small talks that would motivate me. Mr. Guerro would help me out with deciding on career paths and colleges. Ms. Liberty would help me out with resumes and cover letters that I would now use for applying to part-time jobs, and Ms. Lissette is currently helping me apply to FASFA. Thirdly, Sharefest also gave me a volunteer opportunity to attend social and professional events such as the Gala. Ms. Phonnyta was the one to inform me and provide information about this event. I was able to be a part of a video they created and be a voiceover in the same video that they presented. It was a wonderful time and a memory I will forever cherish. After the program ended, I was reassured that I would receive monthly support checkups and guidance if needed. I gained confidence in myself. I gained a second family that I never knew I needed. I wondered in my early teenage years how my early adulthood would look like. I am now 17 turning 18 in June, I have now been able to go back to a primary high school to finish off my senior year at Banning High School. I was accepted into two 4-year colleges with a major of Juvenile Child Development to pursue my career as a Psychiatric Social Worker. Sharefest I am honored to be here to share my story and you are the reason why I know I’ll be great in my life.”

– Natalie, Banning High School Student and Summer Intern

Thank you Natalie for sharing your story with us. You are a confident, passionate and focused woman. We look forward to watching you pursue your dreams!

Thanks to our YLA Partners!

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