Graduate Stories

Every young person who comes to More Than Words has a different story and different challenges to overcome, but one thing is consistent: Our graduates have done the work. They showed up to participate in our Core Social Enterprise Program, they learned skills, they received feedback and grew, and they made strides toward their personal goals. They graduated and took advantage of support from our Career Services team. They overcame their personal barriers to success and took charge of their lives.

Yve: One Bold Move After Another

On the day of the earthquake in Haiti, my childhood ended. I moved on my own to the United States to live with my brother but things didn’t improve. When I was fifteen, my brother’s girlfriend started physically abusing me. I survived the ordeal when a neighbor heard my cries and called the police.

The Department of Children and Family Services (DCF) placed me in a foster home and my life improved tremendously. There have been many heroes who helped me along the way, like my foster mom, members of my church, and my Youth Development Manager at More Than Words.

When I first started at More Than Words I was really shy, and I didn’t know how to manage my attitude. In my 11 months in the program, I became more patient, and also mastered skills that I thought were too hard at first, like receiving books into the online inventory. My “you” job pushed me to want to finish high school, set goals for the future, and figure out what I want to do. The staff helped me with college applications and pushed me to speak up as a leader on the team. They also helped me move into independent living in Lowell. Another bold move for me!

While I do go through periods where I experience flashbacks and depression, I am now more focused, ambitious, and determined to succeed. Since I graduated, More Than Words continued to help me with all the steps to get enrolled in college, like getting financial aid. In addition to working as a Mental Health Assistant, I am attending Middlesex Community College for a degree in Human Services!

More Than Words was the perfect first job. More young people should have the opportunity.

Graduated 2016

Chris: From Lockup to Career

I’ve been involved with Department of Youth Services since I was 17. I was getting into fights, and I ended up leaving school and getting my GED. While I was locked up for 6 months, DYS helped me figure out what my issues were, but they couldn’t help me conquer them.

When I got out, they helped me get my life back together. Even though things were better, I felt hopeless. With a record and no work experience, I couldn’t get a job anywhere. I was sitting at home all day—sleeping, playing video games or going to the DYS office to chat with the workers. After applying to a lot of jobs and getting a lot of closed doors, the DYS resource specialists referred me to More Than Words.

More Than Words was better than I expected—I expected a normal job, but here we were able to work on ourselves. My business job taught me that I’m a hard worker, and I’m capable of being a leader. My YOU job helped me maintain good standing in college, overcome tough parts of my personality—like difficulty talking to co-workers—and to let go of small things.

The staff and structure kept me focused: I wanted to finish college, get my computer science degree and work in the I.T. industry. At More Than Words, I learned how to advocate for myself, be positive and handle stressful situations. My personality even changed—as Youth Development Managers pushed me to get more involved with my coworkers, I overcame my shyness.

Now, I’m working at Logan Airport, and More Than Words is still checking in with me. I’m in my second year at Bunker Hill Community College—studying computer science. More Than Words held me to a high standard while giving me a second chance.

Graduated 2015

Dayja: I’m Prepared for My Future

Four years, six couches, one shelter and countless sleepless nights. I became homeless when my mother kicked me out right before my 18th birthday. Although I experienced homelessness as a child, not having a stable home is much scarier as an adult. Obtaining a job, staying safe and not knowing whether you’ll get a shower in the morning are all major worries.

The stress kept me from being my best in school and at work, and I felt stuck. I was thinking about college but didn’t know how to get there. Eventually I realized I couldn’t do it alone. I reached out for support, and one of my caseworkers at Youth Harbors told me about More Than Words. When I interviewed, I was a bit nervous—working on myself sounded like a big challenge!

The hardest part about More Than Words was definitely the YOU job—I didn’t want to talk about myself, but I knew I had to in order to move forward. The staff was patient with me and gave me a lot of chances. I also learned about college applications: the ins and outs of financial aid, loans and interviews. It made me feel really good about my future to know I’m prepared!

Now I’m in a more stable place, excelling in school and continuing to grow in my education. I just started at Roxbury Community College, and hope to transfer to a nursing school to become a midwife. I’ve established a support system, including my Youth Development Manager and Education and Employment Manager.

I’m stronger, more levelheaded and able to endure even the toughest of challenges. No matter what comes toward me in the future, I know I’ll get through it.

Graduated 2015

Sammy: Bravery Means Never Giving Up

I was born in Puerto Rico and grew up living with my dad. When I was fourteen he took me with him to Massachusetts. I didn’t know any English. After about a year he got arrested and I was put in foster care and went from home to home. I learned about More Than Words when I was 16 and living in a group home.

At the time, MTW was just starting up in a little office in Waltham. I was one of the youth who helped open our first store on Moody Street. I learned efficiency, punctuality, and how to be professional. I learned how to work. I felt like I was really part of something—a feeling I’d never felt before. I really mattered. MTW really pushed me to get out of the streets, take school seriously, and make better choices.

I graduated from More Than Words and High School. I went straight to college, getting my associates degree at Salem State and then my bachelors at Springfield College. But despite all my success and positive choices, I landed in prison after one moment of not thinking right. I wish every day that I could undo that moment.

I used my time in prison to continue to grow and change, and also reconnected with my biological mom. Jodi at MTW was one of two people who visited me. After prison I have gotten my life on track. I have gone back to school to study business, and I am working as a regional training manager for Verizon. I got married and have a beautiful son.

I am where I am because of brave moves, like never leaving school regardless of where I had to sleep. Whether I was living in a foster home, on a park bench, or in prison: I went to school dirty but I never stopped learning. And I stayed in touch with Jodi through it all, with letters, phone calls, and visits.

I brought my son to the More Than Words summer barbeque in 2017 to meet all the current youth. It was amazing seeing the growth and knowing I had something to do with it. I could see myself in the youths’ eyes.

Graduated 2006