Nineteen-year-old student Wilber Gonzalez-Garay is excited about his future. In it, he sees himself doing a variety of things that interest him, especially work that involves using his hands. Even more impressive is the fact that less than a year ago, Gonzalez-Garay was homeless and desperate for a change.
"I didn't have house and I had just lost my job," Gonzalez-Garay said. "I really needed something to keep me busy, and the one thing I wanted to do was go back to school."
Gonzalez-Garay is just one of close to 200 students enrolled in Futures Academy, which serves students ages 17 to 21 who have too few credits to earn a traditional high school diploma but are still interested in furthering their education and pursuing a post-secondary degree. Through a partnership with Colorado Youth for a Change and Aurora Public Schools, students are able to access resources, guidance and targeted academic instruction that will allow them to leave Futures with an associate degree, Pickens Technical College Certificate, GED or a combination of the three.
Students, community members and staff ̶ including representatives of the APS Board of Education, Pickens and the Community College of Aurora ̶ recently came together to celebrate the grand opening of the new center's location at 14707 E. 2nd Ave. Student ambassadors and staff members conducted building tours and Q&A sessions for attendees looking for more insight on how the program works. As Gonzalez-Garay put it, Futures staff members are concerned with more than just academics, a quality any young student trying to get ahead would appreciate.
"I've now got a good idea of how to speak to people and write resumes," he said, adding that he also learned how to produce a cover letter. "I had no idea what that even was."
Now taking classes at Futures, Pickens and CCA, Gonzalez-Garay said he has everything he needs to accomplish his ultimate goal - earning his mechatronics engineering degree.
"If I wasn't here at Futures," Gonzalez-Garay said, "I'd probably be somewhere on the street begging people for money."
Thanks to his new found discovery, that scenario is far from reality.