Meet Jessica Aldana. Jessica grew up in Revere, MA. She lived in a bilingual home, attended Revere High School, and worked part time to help support her family. Before graduating high school Jessica, wasn’t set on her next step.
Would she go to college? Would she work full time? That’s when she heard about Year Up.
“I heard about Year Up about two weeks before graduating high school. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I wanted to go to college, but didn’t know what was suitable for me. Until I heard about a student—who one of their family members went through the program. Then I talked to a guidance counselor and she helped me through the process.”
Year Up is a one-year, intensive training program that provides low-income young adults, ages 18-24, with a combination of hands-on skill development, college credits, corporate internships, and support. Microsoft YouthSpark, a company-wide, global initiative to create opportunities for youth, partners with Year Up to introduce tech and empower youth all over the world like Jessica.
There were are few things that instantly attracted Jessica to Year Up.
“One big thing was how you get paid to go to school. I was like WHAT, they PAY YOU to go to school? That’s insane. The other part was how Year Up wanted to help young adults be in a place where you would be able to learn from business corporations and how it works. I was very intrigued about that — I want to learn that!”
For the next year Jessica worked at State Street in their IT department as a Year Up intern. “I liked it [State Street] a lot. I’ve never been in a company like that. It was very interesting to work there and be able to learn that there are different types of technology. I was taught basic things about computers, but never exposed to hardware or software. Everything I learned about technology was through Year Up.”
Since graduating from Year Up in 2014, Jessica has went on to work at the Microsoft Store in the The Shops at Prudential Center as a Product Advisor. “I get to interact with a lot of customers. I introduce them to our newest products that we have now including the Surface device. A lot of people are very curious about how it works. We advise them what is most suitable for them, whether for business or personal use.” She also works part time at Harvard University in their IT department.
“I was actually undecided about whether to work in business or IT. What intrigued me is that there are not a lot of women in IT. I want to go into IT. I want to learn every subject that I can learn about technology. I feel like a lot of women are seen, ‘You’re in tech? How?’ Yes, we’re able to do anything anyone else can do!”
So what’s next for Jessica? “School-wise, once I complete a year with Harvard I’ll be going to their extension program. I’m going to study IT. I feel like my experiences with Year Up and Microsoft are a great kind blessing for me. I can’t believe that I got the chance to work at such great places with great teachers and so much potential to learn.”
“I feel like YU is a great program to be in and if I could recommend it to every 18 and 24 year old I would,” she says. “They give it their all and they’ll make things happen. As long as you put your effort in and show you want to be there and learn, and expand yourself, and put yourself out there — they’ll help you out.”