Monday Jul 24th, 2017
"Everyone has a story but not everyone will let the beginning determine the ending. As long as you keep that fire burning inside, that passion and desire to be great, you will achieve so much more than you ever thought,” Talayia Bowen shared.
Talayia has had to adhere to her own advice in order to get where she is today. After years of struggling, including bouts of homelessness, she has earned her GED and several certifications, attends college and is gainfully employed in the IT industry.
In 2008 Talayia turned 14 years old, and she was already living on her own. Going to school was a challenge, so at 15 she dropped out. A cousin recommended the Youth Opportunity (YO) Baltimore center whose services Talayia would utilize off and on for the next five years. She enrolled in GED classes, completed various training programs and had support from caring adults who helped connect her to community resources.
YO Baltimore, operated by the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development, provides GED instruction and employment services for youth between the ages of 17 and 24 who are out of school and out of work.
While staying at a youth shelter, Talayia was referred to an alternative school but she couldn’t stay focused. “There were students cursing out the teachers,” she said. “At the YO Center students weren’t rude. We were all there for the same purpose. We wanted to accomplish things for ourselves,” Talayia remembers. She read books, studied for the GED test, gained job readiness skills and even practiced yoga at the center. “The YO center was the Holy Grail for me …. the academics, the overall culture and environment. They pay attention to each student,” Talayia said with appreciation.
Talayia briefly went to classes at the American Career Institute to learn medical billing and coding but she couldn’t complete the course since she was underage and did not have a Maryland state ID. “Someone I met at BCCC [Baltimore City Community College] paid for my ID, and then Bon Secours helped me apply for a housing voucher that I received in September 2013,” she said. In 2014 Talayia graduated from the YouthBuild program which trains young people in construction trades, and she officially completed her GED. She worked at Home Depot for a while and at the Under Armour warehouse for about six months. She wanted to find a job with fewer physical demands, so she looked into a training program that would qualify her to work at the Port of Baltimore. Unfortunately, since she didn’t have any IT experience, she wasn’t accepted.
Outcomes & Benefits
Stan Smith from the YO Westside center saw an announcement about a new program called NPower – a 22-week program that provides technology training, career development, and an opportunity to participate in paid internships. Talayia earned a CompTIA A+ certification and did her internship at Under Armour Global Headquarters in the IT department. A week after she finished her internship, Hewlett Packard, which runs the global tech support services for Under Armour, called to offer her a full-time position. “Always keep pushing! I know that everyone has already heard that seemingly simple advice, but I say this because it is literally the only thing that plays a factor in your success. Not the employer who wouldn’t hire you, not the teacher who wouldn’t pass you, not the parent(s) who weren’t there for you. This doesn’t make those of us who are alone any less so but it puts you in control of your life,” Talayia described her advice to others who face obstacles.
Talayia continues to push herself forward. She plans to get a BA in Information Systems Management, own a home by the time she turns 28 and keep working at the Under Armour Global Headquarters.