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Derickus makes a change for the better

June 7, 2011

Derickus was one of four Memphis-area high school students who recently were invited to Washington, D.C., for a national youth summit on education.

Derickus, right, with TL Specialist Whitney Robertson

Soon to be a high-school graduate, Derickus filmed and reported on the event. He’d like to do something similar as a career, maybe be a TV cameraman. But he needed help to get on track. He needed support to avoid negative influences and peers. He needed to improve at school, find a job and prepare for his own place. Most importantly, he needed support to further his education.

“I’d like to operate a camera for television news,” he said. “I know interacting with negative things won’t get me too far, and I want to go to college.”

For Derickus, the Washington, D.C., visit was a small, yet significant step toward success. He’s been in Youth Villages’ transitional living program for almost a year, and his journey to adulthood has a bright future – he plans to attend Tennessee Technical Center before going on to college. He dreams of being the first in his family to do so. Whitney Robertson is his TL specialist.

“Derickus had a lot of goals, but he didn’t know how to get there,” she said. “He’s very motivated to succeed, but he lacked the supports many young adults his age have.”

About a year ago, Derickus got into an argument with a friend and decided to put his life on a more positive path. The friend told him about Youth Villages’ TL program, and he made a phone call to check into it himself. It was exactly what he needed.

Once he was in the program, he began to improve at school and even took on more of a leadership role among his peers. He’s helping others in the TL program with their schoolwork now.

Through a grant from The Day Foundation, Youth Villages’ transitional living program began in 1999 to help youth get a strong start on adulthood in the crucial years between ages 17 and 22. Transitional living specialists help young people learn to deal with the minor and major problems that come with adulthood. They help participants find housing and health services and learn how to access transportation and meet their basic needs. In addition, they learn the skills needed to find and keep jobs and continue their education.

Whitney and Derickus continue to work on study habits to prepare him for education after high school. They’re also preparing for job interviews through role-playing. He’s established his own bank account and manages his money. They’re also going through what will be needed to enroll at TTC. Derickus worked on eliminating negative peer groups and environments — a difficult task because of his location. But Whitney said Derickus is overcoming an environment that devalues success.

“He’s aware of it,” Whitney said. “And he’s well on his way to improving those areas of his life to be able to be successful.”

In addition to finding employment, Derickus plans to share a place of his own with a relative.

“After I graduate high school, I’d like to get a summer job, move into an apartment and go to TTC here for graphic design,” Derickus said. “After that, I can go to college and work.”

The decision to go to trade school instead of a four-year college took serious consideration. He’s motivated to be the first in his family to go to college, but wanted to have a marketable skill for employment first. In Derickus’ case, the TL program has been a support for him to achieve footholds in everyday adult life. He has a plan.

“I’ve been more of a guide to him,” Whitney said. “He’s very motivated and takes everything we’ve worked on to another level. He’s very impressive.”

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