Jorge Perez: A Leader and Role Model

My name is Jorge Perez, a senior at Weaver High School in Hartford, and this is how my life changed by joining ConnectiKids. When I was young, my father was incarcerated. I became the man of the house and tried to be better than most kids my age, because for 5 straight years I was the only male figure in my brother’s life. During this time, I often felt lost.

Everything changed for me with ConnectiKids. I learned to be a leader and role model for the younger generation. The Tutoring/Mentoring Program helped me achieve high honors in reading and math.

My teachers see me as a bright student that can conquer any obstacle. The program helped me become the man I am today and for that I am forever grateful.

During a particularly difficult time for my family, I was extremely depressed. John and the ConnectiKids staff were by my side, supporting me every step of the way.

I got my young brother and several of my cousins to join the program so they could also benefit from it. To show my appreciation for the program, I volunteered as a tutor, and later as volunteer staff. I have over 1,000 hours of community service with ConnectiKids, and I’m very proud of that.

This program will always have a special place in my heart. I will never forget what they have done for me. Thank you for supporting ConnectiKids and helping make a difference in my life and the lives of thousands of kids for over 36 years.

Gratefully,

Jorge Perez Jr., Class of 2015
ConnectiKids

Ary Lajeunesse: Our Piece of the Pie

opp-success-story

As a 17-year-old in the foster care system, 2015 was an especially pivotal year for Ary Lajeunesse. Ary had recently earned her high school diploma, but had no idea of what to do with it or where her future would lead. Lacking direction and feeling the stress of “aging out” of the foster care system, Ary’s social worker recommended that she consider coming to OPP to see how she could receive extra support and help navigate her future.

“I came to OPP to keep busy and stay out of trouble, but I found so much more than that,” Ary says after she met her Youth Development Specialist Camilo.

“Camilo is like a second father. My father’s very important to me, and though he unfortunately passed in August 2013, since I came to OPP Camilo has become a supportive adult in my life; someone I can trust. He has helped me find my voice so that I could start advocating for myself.”

With this added motivation to succeed, Ary enrolled in and completed OPP’s Career Competency Development Training where she learned valuable soft skills for her future work — resume writing, communication, teamwork, conflict resolution, and more. Her success in the course led her to her first paid internship which was at OPP in the Youth Development department as the Front Desk Assistant. Over the 6-week internship, Ary practiced the professional and leadership skills she’d learned, met and networked with new people, and became involved with OPP’s Youth Advisory Board (YAB). This Board is a group of OPP youth who regularly meet to discuss their experiences and to decide what else can be done, in and out of OPP, to improve the quality of programs for young people who receive services from the Department of Children and Families (DCF). Ary recently became the President of the YAB, and represents the YAB at the state-wide level, meeting monthly with the Connecticut DCF Commissioner.

Since her internship at OPP, Ary’s motivation has skyrocketed. She completed a second internship at the Law Office of Johnson, Chambers, and Carroll.  She’s enrolled in Goodwin College’s Business Administration bachelor’s degree program, and, to support herself and her schooling, she’s a sales consultant for Thirty-One, a large fashion accessories company. With confidence and an entrepreneurial spirit, Ary has broken down barriers and realized her own potential and path to success.

Now 19, Ary is working with Camilo on her long-term plan, which includes helping her earn placement into an independent living program through the state, where she will be able to receive assistance with college and expenses for her own apartment. With the added stability, Ary says that “in five years, I see myself graduating college with my Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and beginning my career.”