Creating Change Through Education: JJ’s Story

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Story courtesy of United Way of Northern Utah

When J.J. was 14, his life was heading the wrong direction. From his street-tough appearance to skipping school, he lived a life devoid of rules or responsibility. He didn’t care about school and rarely attended, and he received no support or motivation from family. When he left home and had to move in with some cousins, he wasn’t expecting anything to change.

Through his cousins, J.J. heard about programs at Youth Impact, an Ogden non-profit that provides safe activities, classes, and service opportunities for local youth. Attending Youth Impact gave him something productive to do. He began developing a new set of friends and a sense of belonging. J.J. tried a little bit of everything at Youth Impact, including community service projects, fishing club, biking club, D.J. club, and even glasswork through the arts and crafts program.

Youth Impact started benefiting J.J. in other ways. Program director Robb Hall helped J.J. begin a part-time job in landscaping, which he kept throughout high school. He also developed an interest in welding and, after some experience in welding classes, was promised a job if he graduated high school. J.J. had always struggled with consistent attendance, and because he switched high schools a few times, he was behind in his coursework. However, motivated by a career in a field he enjoyed, he caught up on all his classes by his junior year and was able to complete his senior year on time.

J.J.’s mentors at Youth Impact did more for him than just provide after-school entertainment. Regular school attendance is a prerequisite for participation, keeping J.J. in school even when he wasn’t interested. In connection with his part-time job, he was encouraged to set and achieve goals including starting a bank account, saving money, and getting a driver’s license.

That welding job he was promised after graduation? J.J. is proud to tell people that it worked out, because he got serious about school and showed a commitment to developing his skills. He now works full-time at Boman-Kemp Steel and has a bright future ahead of him.

United Way of Northern Utah supports Youth Impact with grant money to fund Study Hall expenses, helping kids like J.J. succeed in school and move on to a bright future. Over the past three years, Youth Impact’s academic program has rapidly expanded, with a team dedicated to helping students during Study Hall. In the first semester of 2015-16, 33 of their students landed on the honor roll, with a 3.7 or better GPA and 98 percent overall school attendance.

We are proud to partner with Youth Impact in creating lasting change for youth in our community.