WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA9) --- The Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) helps the city's youth get on a path to a stable profession. The non-profit organization in Columbia Heights launched the LAYC Career Academy last year. The free public charter program has offered over 100 students training in medical assistance or IT.
"We need that motivation to succeed in life and actually become somebody in life. And prove to people that we can excel to a higher standard than what the stereotypes are given to us," said Janie Velasquez. The 19-year-old studies IT at the Career Academy.
"It's helping me tremendously because, well first off, it's free," she said.
LAYC has been a second home for Velasquez. She has visited and volunteered for the after-school teen center where she socialized with friends and explored future learning options.
The Career Academy gave her the motivation to continue her education immediately after high school graduation. She didn't have to take a year off because of financial barriers. She currently takes classes for reading comprehension along with her IT coursework.
The Career Academy serves a multicultural population of 16 to 24-year-old youth who are not in school. Students are selected through a lottery system due to the high demand.
"We are so happy about our LAYC Career Academy, because on any given day, in the District of Columbia, there's about 9,000 people who are not on a pathway to a career or continued education," said Lori Kaplan, President and CEO of LAYC.
Once complete with the Career Academy, Velasquez will work with LAYC's specialists to land an internship and be one step closer to a job.
When asked about her progress, Velasquez says she looks forward to the future.
"I want to be done with it already, and you know, move on with my next step in life. But I think I'm doing pretty good so far," she said.
NOTE: Gannett Foundation has provided a grant to LAYC.
Produced by: Elizabeth Jia
WUSA 9 & WUSA9.com