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2022 Region 6 ESS Carmelo Santiago.
Student who turned to crime builds a new future
September 19, 2022
Carmelo Santiago
Grade: GED School: LVJUSD YouthBuild District: Livermore Valley Joint USD ACSA region: 6 Carmelo Santiago is proof that everybody deserves a second chance. His journey began at Livermore High with Carmelo trying to balance school and athletics while also financially supporting his family. By his junior year, he was failing his classes and, in turn, lost his spot on the football team. Things quickly unraveled as Carmelo dropped out of school and turned to a life of crime. His lowest point came when he spent a year in jail after a robbery conviction. But Carmelo’s story was far from over. He found YouthBuild, a program in Livermore Valley Joint USD designed for students who want to earn their GED while also receiving job training.
What does it mean to you to win an award like this that celebrates your hard work over the years? It’s great because sometimes it’s hard to know if I can ever get the kind of life I really want. It can be really hard to find a job and have the money I need each month. It means a lot to be encouraged to keep going.
Can you explain some of the challenges you’ve had to overcome? Being in jail for a year was tough. There were a lot of fights and I had to keep my head down. When I got out, my family had moved. The award money, and the money I earned at YouthBuild, helped me rent a room in Livermore. Before that I was finding different places to stay each night. Now I just want to keep moving forward and find a good job and regular work.
How much did your life change as a result of joining the LVJUSD YouthBuild program? With this program I feel like I have a place to go that will help me solve problems and find a job that will help me move forward.
If I told you when you were in jail that you’d be where you are today and working on your GED, what would you have told me? I wouldn’t have believed it. I would have said, “Stop playin’.” I still have a long way to go, but I’m glad I’m not in that situation anymore.
What would your advice be to students who have faced similar challenges? Stay out of trouble. If you didn’t finish high school, you should go back and find a way to finish. Don’t hang out with people who will hold you down. You never know what kind of things will show up in your life, like YouthBuild.