I am Arturo, A YOUNG DAD, and this is my story.
Arturo Jones is 23 years old, he lives in Robeson County, NC with his partner Layla and their son Kayson, 4 years old.
As told to Jasmine Getrouw-Moore, Young Families Connect Media Outreach Coordinator (January 2017).
Before Young Families Connect
My son Kayson was born on January 23, 2013 while Layla and I were still in high school. At the time, I felt pretty immature with no real plans for the future but I did have some good guidance and support from my parents. My parents even opened up their home for Layla to move in with us until Kayson was born then got us an apartment for our new little family when Kayson was just a few months old. After high school, Layla started a phlebotomy program and I immediately started working to support my family. I landed a job as a Corrections Officer at the North Carolina Department of Public Safety. I hated that job but enjoyed great benefits, decent income and increased my motivation to return to school. The job was much more mentally challenging than physically challenging and emotionally draining. It’s like being incarcerated: I was there 13 hours a day, in confinement with inmates and it really got quite depressing. I had to be a different version of myself, more firm and very demanding compared to who I am with Kayson. With Kayson, I’m daddy. I actually resigned from the job and decided to enroll as a full time student at Robeson Community College, in the Manufacturing program. I knew I wanted a different life for myself and my family.
Full Time Student
My day to day life as a full-time student has been very busy! Not only am I a full-time student but I am also a part time employee at a local company called XPO Logistics. When I wake up, I am responsible for getting Kayson prepared for school and dropping him off to daycare because Layla works about an hour away during third shift. After I take Kayson to daycare, I then prepare for my school and work day. Depending on her schedule, Layla will take Kayson to work and if there are times where my school and work schedule plus Layla’s work schedule conflict, then my parents, who are very supportive, will step in and help out with Kayson. Studying has been very difficult but I try to study at night after work while Kayson is sleeping or during weekends. Now, I’m a very active student as Public Relations Officer of the manufacturing club. I use my resources- take thirty minute breaks between classes (when available) to do homework, study and also do this same routine on weekends. I also participate in study groups with classmates to do the best I possibly can in school.
Getting to know Young Families Connect
During one of my classes, a classmate and I were talking about our children. She and I especially talked about the high cost of daycare expenses. This is when she shared with me that she was involved with the Young Families Connect program here in Robeson County. She further explained that the program provides all types of benefits like paying for childcare and school. I was concerned about whether or not the program would support fathers but my classmate said that the program does. When I heard this, I asked my classmate if she would provide me with a contact number to the program. When she gave me the number, I decided I would call and find out how I might get involved but first I talked with Layla; she supported the decision to participate in Young Families Connect. I immediately got in contact with Mrs. Virginia who told me to come right on in and told me which documents she would need from me to get enrolled. Talking to Mrs. Virginia really left me with a sense of comfort; she made me feel very welcomed and she’s been great to me and my family.
Young Families Connect: Support, Mentoring and Healthy Behaviors
I’ve been a Young Families Connect participant for two years now. I have really appreciated the way in which YFC offers support to young parents and their families. While Layla has been very supportive, I have been attending the weekly sessions where we learn about different topics like parenting; health and wellness; and self-sufficiency. I even see how I have personally improved myself in these areas of discussion since I’ve been active in this program.
For example, with parenting, I have learned tips on how to become a better parent, how to handle the Terrible Twos. Before, I would try to get Kayson to listen without punishing him but now I have better coping skills for his tantrums and use the skills learned in class to know what to do when I’m feeling overwhelmed. I step to the side and breathe, make sure to not have outbursts with Kayson. These skills have been helpful for mine and Kayson’s relationship and also for my overall health as a parent.
I learned so many things I didn’t know about before during the health and wellness sessions. For example, I didn’t know that second hand smoke was so bad. I’ve been around people who smoke a lot and now I know the dangers of smoking on a family. I have been getting more healthy by going to the gym three times a week. I’ve even lost 20 pounds since joining YFC. When I first enrolled in the program, I didn’t have any health insurance because I left my job where I was covered and I wasn’t eligible for my parents’ insurance. This was a major priority during my enrollment with Mrs. Virginia.
This program not only helped me with becoming a better parent and healthier person but it also relieved some financial stress for my family and me. Self-sufficiency is a major area in this program- helping participants to get jobs with job readiness programs and paying for tuition. During my first year in this program while also in the first year of attending school full time, I had to pay for my books and tuition out of pocket. I asked Mrs. Virginia if there is anything she can do and she provided me with financial assistance on books and tuition all throughout the semester! She also provided me with gas vouchers to relieve the financial stress of paying for gas to attend weekly YFC meetings. Furthermore, Mrs. Virginia helped our family with childcare expenses.
Two years ago, my focus was on continuing school, work and hopefully completing goals like obtaining health insurance, finish my Associate’s Degree in Applied Science and eventually gain full time employment. A good, stable job. Now, my focus is turning my job into a good career that I can be happy with. Graduate- continue to work, continue school, hope to complete goals (health insurance, finish Associate’s Degree in Applied Science**, and full time employment); initially wanted to have a good, stable job. Now my focus is on having a good career that you can be happy with and live my life. Now, I am planning to graduate with my Associates Degree in Applied Science- Electronics in May 2017. I am currently a full time employee at XPO Logistics where I do Customer Service and Dispatch. There, I am able to use my degree. I do plan to further my education with a Bachelor of Science in Physics at the University of North Carolina at Pembroke (UNCP). For now, I am happy with my positon, my co-workers and my life! My ultimate goal is to use my education to make sure their electrical panel on XPO trains are running properly. I have met my goals!
I would like to say to young dads who are in Young Families Connect- stick with the program, embrace all of the resources YFC has to offer. They’re just awesome. A lot of young men feel like a minority because there are so many women. Men also feel like seeking help is not masculine. I think we need to stop being so independent, everybody needs help.
For me, Mrs. Virginia has been the best mentor. She’s my go-to person, someone I can talk to. If it wasn’t for her or YFC, I wouldn’t’ be where I am today. I couldn’t afford to pay my tuition. I wouldn’t have been able to finish the program. Thank you to Mrs. Virginia and the team.