Thursday Sep 20th, 2018
In 2010 Eric McKnight became disengaged with traditional school where he said there just wasn’t enough help or support to keep him focused on academics. He heard about YO Baltimore from a family member and didn’t waste any time between leaving his high school and enrolling as a member of the Eastside YO Center.
The Eastside YO Center is managed by the Historic East Baltimore Community Action Coalition (HEBCAC) through funding from the Mayor’s Office of Employment Development. YO serves out-of-school and out-of-work young adults between the ages of 18 and 24. It provides a full range of academic support, job readiness and employment and skills training opportunities.
“It was like one big happy family to me. The staff at YO Baltimore are full of encouragement and take the time to show their love and support,” Eric remembered. Eric took advantage of the services at YO from 2010 to 2015 and earned his high school diploma. “I participated in anything and everything including nutrition classes, men’s group, workshops about grief and loss and mental health awareness trainings,” Eric said. He also learned to dress for success, put together a resume and practiced good interviewing techniques.
“During the time I was at YO, they assisted me with lots of employment opportunities including an internship with the Department of Social Services and as a group leader with the Baltimore Algebra Project. They gave me an office assistant position at HEBCAC for a while in 2012 and, then they hooked me up as a food service worker at Johns Hopkins Hospital,” Eric said.
“Through all of these trainings and internships – all while I was working on my high school diploma – I gained so many skills and abilities,” Eric recalled. “Most of what carried me through was a strong connection to my family and my faith,” Eric added.
Outcomes & Benefits
In 2014 Eric was hired as an Election Custodian with the Board of Elections (BOE). He delivers voting machines, scanners and paperwork throughout the city. “It’s a big responsibility and I get to work with a great crew,” Eric said. “I am using everything I learned at YO including excellent communication skills, computer knowledge and how to work well as a team member.”
“I also continue to follow my passion to mentor and encourage other young people, help them to stay motivated and not give up on themselves. The pastor that I am under now told me that I have great potential. As a man of faith, I have to believe what he tells me is true. I tell myself, make one step and God will do the rest,” Eric shared.
In five years Eric hopes to buy a house, take good care of his mother and maybe be married with a family. “I really like my job at the BOE. There is enough room for growth and I like working behind the scenes,” he said. “Plus, I get to meet senators, congressman and city officials in this line of work.”