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A 37 year old, Trenton-based nonprofit that fosters self-reliant families and healthy, sustainable communities.

Congratulations Class of 2018!

Graduation is a joyous and momentous occasion for young people and their families. Isles Youth Institute (IYI) provides families the opportunity to realize unforeseen dreams deferred. Students not only receive their High School Diploma but also gain skills that will propel them into the future.

We hope you enjoy reading Julio's journey through traditional school and how IYI changed his life. Julio is a 2018 Isles Youth Institute graduate and the winner of our Elizabeth Gray Erickson award for optimism and courage. When he first started at IYI in December 2017, things were far from rosy. He sat down with us to talk about his journey.

"My personal story is I started struggling in school in the sixth grade. Dropping out was never really an option, but in my junior year of high school, I realized I wasn't learning anything. I probably had the knowledge of a seventh grader. The only thing I had a passion for was acting, but the school said I wasn't going to graduate on time, and they took drama away from me, and they took away summer school too. I didn't know what to do, and I was embarrassed at being at a seventh grade level, so I stopped going to school."

Julio decided to follow in his sister's footsteps and enrolled at IYI. In six short months, he made it through our rigorous Mental Toughness orientation, attained pre-apprenticeship certifications in carpentry and fork-lift operation, completed an internship at NASCAR's Urban Youth Racing School, and even received an award at its completion ceremony.

"It was a feeling I can't really explain. It's like your life is declining and you're doing so bad, but then you finally feel like you succeeded in something. For your life to hit a 180, man, it's a great feeling, I loved it." 

Julio went on to pass his high school equivalency exams, and he took advantage of every opportunity at IYI - especially around public speaking. He's given an impassioned speech about immigration at an IYI public speaking contest, a Martin Luther King Jr. inspired performance at City Hall, and, finally, a senior message at his own hard-earned commencement ceremony.

"IYI started everything for me as far as my success. I've always been outspoken, but they built my vocabulary and my capability of speaking properly to a whole other level. I feel comfortable sharing what I know now, not embarrassed. There are a lot of things I love about IYI, but the most lovable thing about them is that they really care. It helps you emotionally, especially if you don't have that support at home. Because of IYI, I gained so many resources, networks, everything I need to help myself succeed. They exposed me to that, so I'm taking every chance I can get."