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At 31 years old, Mike has seen his share of injustice. Growing up in Atlantic City in a home with limited resources, dysfunction, and disruption, he landed in a juvenile justice facility at a young age due to selling drugs to have money to live. Upon release, Mike returned to that tumultuous home to learn, “My mom put a man before me,” and I could not come back. With no other options, Mike came to Covenant House for a brief period. Here he began to move forward towards a new life. He recalls that his time with us “allowed me to see that people do care in the midst of a crisis.” After leaving Covenant House NJ, his journey took several wrong turns, leading to years of addiction.
Mike, who identifies as Hispanic, says, “I found purpose in school,” enrolling in the Philadelphia Community College’s (PCC) Collegiate Recovery Program to regain his footing and recover from drugs and alcohol. He believes that education is the only way to pull people of color out of the inequality hole but states that only 9% of students graduate from among PCC’s 30 thousand member student body.
“There aren’t enough resources that address the population that community colleges serve,” some of which he says include housing stability, sustainable employment, and child care. As the President of the Student Government, Mike worked hard to bring social justice issues for people of color to light. “I founded a student union at my college that fights for inequalities within the educational system that is supposed to serve a student body predominantly of color. Just as a whole, I stand for equality within my daily function and conversation and use my past experiences as a testimony to inspire people every day.”
The victim mindset is a trap Mike feels keeps many people from overcoming barriers. “Nobody wants to help anybody who doesn’t want to help themselves,” he says. “If you don’t work for anything, you won’t get anything. A person’s suffering will turn into strength and value when they learn how to tell their story. The mindset switch needs to be from victim to survivor.” A switch that aligns with his goal of becoming a child psychologist to help children who come from similar backgrounds as they struggle with many of the same issues. He also wants to stand out in a field where only 1% of psychologists are people of color.
A graduate of the Philadelphia Community College class of 2020, he has proudly accepted a full scholarship to the Cheyney University of Pennsylvania, where he will continue his psychology studies.
We are so pleased and grateful that Mike is giving back to the Covenant House Community by sharing his story.
Are you a youth in need of help?