My name is Donnie. I’m 50 years old, and I’m finally getting my high school education. I don’t actually attend high school, of course, but after all these years I am earning my high school equivalency at The Doe Fund. The 70’s were a tough time to grow up in the South Bronx. There was a lot of drugs and violence in my neighborhood. Survival—not education—was what me and my friends worried about. A few months after I finished 8th grade, I became a father. I stopped going to school altogether so that I could work and support my baby and his mother.
I’ve always had a strong work ethic. In fact, for most of my life, I’ve had two or three jobs at a time. But I’ve also struggled with addiction for most of my life. First it was drugs, which landed me in prison when I was 21. After that, it was alcohol.
Last year, with my 50th birthday on the horizon, I had to come to terms with where my life was heading. Just “getting by” wasn’t enough anymore. I needed to take a hard look at myself and make some serious changes. One of the biggest steps I made was to stop drinking. It wasn’t easy, but I promised my son that I would quit. I checked into a rehabilitation facility and got sober. Whenever things got tough, I remembered my promise to my son.
In rehab, I kept seeing men in blue uniforms with “Ready, Willing & Able” written across the back. When I asked them what it was all about, it sounded too good to be true: a program where I could get my education and train for a real career—all while working and saving money? I had to see it for myself. And you know what? Everything they said was true. At The Doe Fund, I’ve not only trained for a new career in building maintenance, but I’m also getting the education I’ll need to land a job.
My high school equivalency exam is a few weeks away. I’m confident I’ll pass because I’ve put in the hard work. It’s another big step on my road ahead that keeps looking brighter and brighter. It never entered my mind that I would go back to school but I’m living proof that it’s never too late to change. As we like to say at The Doe Fund, I just needed a hand up, not a hand out, to get there.