Tuesday Apr 17th, 2018
“I was referred to HEBCAC in 2010 so I could study for the GED. I kept getting sidetracked and it took me until 2017 to finally earn my high school diploma,” Devin Smallwood said.
HEBCAC (Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition) operates the Eastside Youth Opportunity (YO) Center in partnership with the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development. YO Baltimore provides young adults between 18 and 24 with wraparound services to support their educational and employment goals.
Devin attributes the YO advocates’ dedication as a key component in his achievements. “They kept on me and my mom even during times when I wasn’t really focused. They believed and cared about me,” Devin said.
Devin dropped out of Patterson High School explaining, “I was so young-minded then. I didn’t have a real person to go to – to give me advice on how to be a man.” Devin was surrounded by a lot of negativity, magnified further when his best friend was killed. “Things started going left fast, and once again my YO advocate got on me and I realized that I need to change,” Devin shared.
Devin participated in several YO activities and service learning projects. YO provided assistance with health insurance and vision care. “The center made me a better person, made me have like a big brother/little brother attitude,” Devin said. “It’s up to you to take it and run with it and if you don’t, you’ll drop fast.”
Outcomes & Benefits
YO connected Devin to the Civic Works Youth Build program where he earned several industry certifications. After gaining some work experience and completing high school, Devin was ready to seek a career that matched his skills and interests. His advocate connected him to a Canton restaurant, Southern Provisions, and he was hired as a full-time kitchen assistant in November 2017.
“I love cooking, I’ll never let this go,” Devin said. “I enjoy seeing people happy because of my food. Food will always bring joy to people’s lives.” Devin is the youngest person in the kitchen and the staff all brag about his talent and skill. He makes sauces, preps food and even created his own slider appetizer which is served on Tuesdays.
Devin is currently engaged and looks forward to being married, working toward owning a home and pursuing his interest in cooking. “I want to get a permit for a food truck,” Devin said. “I’ll name the business, On Wheels and Chill Soul Food.”
When thinking about other young adults who may be struggling, Devin’s advice is to “Get up. Do something. Anything and everything is achievable. It’s the most wonderful feeling in the world to know you’re on the right track. Forget what you know and learn something new,” Devin added.