Rosaly: ‘I won’t give up.’

YouthBuild Newark student Rosaly is determined to get her GED. PHOTO BY AKINTOLA HANIF.

Rosaly sits in a basement classroom alone, working on her essay.

She is easily distracted by other students, so she sought out a quiet place to write.

Since Rosaly came to YouthBuild Newark in the fall, she’s been finding ways to cope with her learning difficulties. She devised her own methods of preparing for the GED test, and studies diligently, no matter how frustrating that can be.

“You can’t go anywhere without that piece of paper,” says Rosaly, who is 19. “This is what you need in life.”

Although Rosaly has trouble with vocabulary assignments, she’ll write down unfamiliar words ten times at home and use them in a sentence until she knows what they mean.

Rosaly’s case manager, Abdur Lockhart, admires her tenacity. At a YouthBuild Newark construction competition last month, Rosaly’s team mates quit mid-way through, but she worked on until the end.

“Her effort was the best I’ve seen,” says Lockhart. “She worked the hardest. She worked the longest. And I think she’s beginning to recognize her own weaknesses and try to deal with them. That’s why she separated herself from the other students today to help herself focus.”

“I’m a good learner, but it takes me longer,” Rosaly explains. “You have to be patient with me.”

Patience was in short supply at the other schools and GED programs Rosaly attended, she says. For her, the classroom was a place where teachers became annoyed, then gave up on her.

Rosaly brushes up on her writing skills. PHOTO BY AKINTOLA HANIF.

At YouthBuild Newark, staff expect the best from Rosaly, she says. “The teachers are hard on you sometimes. They make me do the work. And that’s what I want.”

Rosaly dropped out of high school her freshman year. Since, she’s worked mostly as a restaurant cook, sometimes taking two jobs. Her father, Luisito, had a similar childhood in Puerto Rico, she says. “He had scholarships to go to school but he had to give them up so he could help take care of his mom and sister.”

Rosaly feels indebted to her dad, who raised her mostly on his own. Her mom had “situations” that prevented her from caring for Rosaly in any consistent way.

“My dad’s always been there for me. I carry his name, so I have to represent that. I’ll be the first one in the family to go to college,” she vows.

Rosaly knows she’s got some growing up to do. She wants to work on reigning in her emotions. But she’s determined to realize her goals.

Her dream is to attend culinary school and one day open her own restaurant.

“Now that I know construction, maybe I’ll be able to build it myself,” she says hopefully.

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