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A 36 year old, Trenton-based nonprofit that fosters self-reliant families and healthy, sustainable communities.

IYI Graduate Gives Senior Speech

This year’s Isles Youth Institute senior speaker, was Katherine Caicedo, a young lady who joined Isles in December of 2016 and is now headed to college at Montclair State University. She gave her speech on persevering through obstacles, a topic she knows pretty well herself.

This is her story, in her own words:

“Before IYI, I was at a traditional high school. I had a lot of things going on at home; there were a lot of stressors in my life. I went through depression, and it was one of the reasons I was in and out of school. I was going to therapy and PHP programs.  It was hard to stay on track, and there was a lot of drama at school too. I didn’t want to go to school, so I kept missing days. After a certain amount of days, they sent a letter home, saying your parent has to go to court. I got overwhelmed; I felt trapped.  I kept taking a few steps forward and five steps back, and I felt like I wasn’t going to get anywhere. I stopped believing in myself, and just said, I’m not going to make it. I’m not going to graduate. This is going to be like everything else. I’ll start it, but I won’t end up finishing it.

I heard about IYI through my Aunt, Jackie León. I came here and I felt comfortable. All of the support here was motivating and encouraging. It made me feel like I had a backbone. I’d get a phone call from Miss Olivia asking me where I was and telling me to come in. Miss Andrea helped a lot too when I was making excuses not to come in because I didn’t think I was going to pass the tests. She told me to take it easy. Focus on the test, and zone everybody else out. Mr. White saw me shaking on the day of my tests and told me I had to relax. I took my tests and I passed them. It went by so fast. I can’t believe I did it.

I was going to go to Mercer Community College. I went there, filed everything out, got financial aid. Everything was set. But all of a sudden, I said, what does it hurt to look at four year schools? But when I started looking, all of them asked for ACT and SAT scores, and I haven’t taken any. One day, I’m at home, and Miss Olivia texts me saying she found one school where SAT and ACT scores are optional, and its Montclair State. 

I called the admissions department to double check and they told me to apply. But I started to doubt myself. How am I going to get into this school? I started losing focus. But my aunt was on top of me, Miss. Olivia was on top of me, and I was like I’m going to show them I can do this. I wrote a bomb essay, I got really good recommendations and submitted them. I closed my eyes and crossed my fingers.

I was really excited when I got my acceptance letter. I was really happy.

I’m nervous about starting college. But I want to graduate. I want to get my bachelors, and I want to get my masters. My dream is to open my own practice because it’s really hard to find Spanish speaking therapists. I went through that, and I want to be able to help other people and their families because I understand what it’s like. I want to be able to help people who feel stuck like I did. I want to be able to help them like you guys did for me.

Because you can reach your goal; you just have to keep pushing and fighting.

I’m going to miss you guys. I am going to come back. I’m going to miss life skills. That’s one thing I loved. Traditional high school doesn’t really have life skills. Here we do schoolwork, math, all of the subjects, but IYI also helps us go out and deal with the real world. Like how to deal with credit scores, if you have an abusive relationship, drug abuse, if you need to get your license… It’s cool because you don’t really do that at traditional high schools. So here, you’re not so scared when you graduate and you have to do those things, and I know I am not going to be alone even after I leave for college. I love that, and I’m going to miss that."

Learn more about Isles Youth Institute here.