Bertram describes how YouthBuild helped him continue his education and become a committed YouthBuild employee, a business owner, and a drug counselor.
I grew up on the South Side of Chicago in low-income and high crime neighborhoods. These problems caused me to frequently change schools and become involved with gangs. With few positive role models and coming from a single-parent home, I struggled with communication and behavior issues. During my senior year in high school, my family moved to the area of Bloomington-Normal, IL. When attempting to enroll in a high school to complete my last year of school, I was told I needed to take many additional courses due to credit differences between the two school systems. I ultimately dropped out of school. I decided to obtain my GED. As a new father, unsure what my next steps in life would be, I applied to YouthBuild McLean County, after hearing great things about the program from friends and family. Entering the program in 2004, I had no idea how YouthBuild would impact my life or the lives of my family.
YouthBuild provided me with opportunities to develop my leadership and construction skills, step out of my comfort zone, develop positive relationships with caring adults, and learn to give back to my community through my AmeriCorps service. While still in the program, I was enrolled, through YouthBuild, in Heartland Community College (HCC). I graduated with honors from YouthBuild McLean County, earning an AmeriCorps scholarship and 9 college credits. Since I had dreamed of owning my own business, YouthBuild McLean County helped me enroll in a Business Certificate Program at HCC. I completed the program in 2007, an Associates Program in 2009, and my Bachelor’s in Organizational Leadership in 2011. I did a senior internship at YouthBuild McLean County, giving back to the organization that helped me build a pathway for my life.
I credit many of my successes to the relationships, mentoring, and family environment that YouthBuild provided me. I have worked with YouthBuild McLean County for nearly eight years in various capacities, including Mentoring Coordinator, Transitions and Leadership Coordinator, and Senior Case Manager. Through a partnership that includes YouthBuild McLean County and HCC, I provide supportive services for youth earning their GED through local adult education programs. Outside of my YouthBuild work experience, I worked as a Drug Counselor for adolescents and opened Go-getters Delivery Service. I have a goal of earning my Graduate Degree in Counseling.