Year Up gives students a leg up in their careers


Professional dress, networking, business etiquette, interviews and elevator pitches — these all are important in the corporate world. And they were also mostly foreign to me when I graduated from high school.

At the time, I wasn’t thinking much about my future, let alone my career. Luckily, I got the exciting opportunity to be a part of Year Up at Miami Dade College (MDC), where I was introduced to these concepts and so much more.

In high school, my ultimate goal was to fit in and contribute something to the world — to be useful and accomplish many things. I would feel discouraged even in small moments when I realized that I could have been better. Between graduating from high school and going to my first semester of college, pressure mounted from all sides to succeed and become a role model for my younger sister.

I never even considered Year Up until I sat down and spoke with its staff. Learning about the benefits led me to start the program — and to finish it with the skill set to do excellent work as I pursued a career.

It is a blessing to know that I’ve made it this far. I am receiving an associate in science degree in electronics engineering technology, and with the support, knowledge and encouragement of my professors and the Year Up Team, I was given the tools necessary to complete my degree.

I learned technical and professional skills at an internship that helped me thrive at a Fortune 500 company, with Year Up as its South Florida partner. My internship let me to strengthen my professional skill set; however, it was Year Up’s commitment to high support and high expectations that really prepared me for success in a fast-paced corporate environment. The tremendous support I have received is what keeps me driving forward — support from the Year Up staff, support from my technology colleagues at the corporate partner site and support from my fellow Year Up colleagues.

I also owe my opportunity to Year Up alumni. Their prior internship success ensured that I had a seat at the table. I thank all those who are finding new ways to close the “opportunity divide” and to help young adults in our community.

I would other students to be open-minded. Year Up emphasizes being open to receiving feedback and applying it, which is a difficult skill to hone. Feedback is beneficial and not intended to tear you down.

Rather, by thoughtfully applying the feedback we receive, we can make progress toward achieving our ultimate goals.

Year Up is an opportunity for students in urban communities to get a fresh start at life. When you are young, life is full of “firsts.” I had no clue as to what to pursue when I left high school, and Year Up became the sign that pointed to where I could go, as well as the bridge that helped me cross the opportunity divide.

Without a goal or a path to reach it, finding your way can become a series of detours that makes it difficult for young adults to achieve their true potential. Year Up is that path. I urge local companies to become Year Up partners and be that goal for young adults.

Josselyn Ruiz graduated cum laude from Miami Lakes Educational Center before attending Miami Dade College and joining Year Up South Florida.