Grad King Oquendo turns to Per Scholas to help him launch a promising career

This year at the annual Robin Hood Foundation Benefit, world-renowned journalist Katie Couric took the stage in front the A-list 4,000 person audience to introduce the story of Per Scholas graduate King Oquendo. As the jumbo screens cued his story, King watched from his seat among the rest at the Benefit. “I couldn’t believe it. Katie Couric said my name!”

His story brought the house down and the spotlight went on him as he stood and waved to the crowd who was now cheering him on.

Growing up in the shadow of Yankee Stadium, King was born and raised in the South Bronx, New York City’s poorest borough – and one of America’s poorest Congressional Districts. His family lived on food stamps while he worked on graduating high school.

“High school was a tough chapter for me. I was definitely making a lot of…mistakes, I felt bored, not challenged enough, and the environment was hostile.” Going to arguably one of the worst high schools in the Bronx, “hostile” was putting it nicely. “All my friends were dropping like flies after the fourth year came by, and no one was close to graduating,” he says.

King considered dropping out with the rest of his friends, but a life-changing conversation with his father steered him from the all-too-often-chosen route. “I could tell he was extremely upset. I just felt like I let him down. My dad’s reaction lit the fuel underneath me and I woke up. I vowed to graduate and he was extremely proud when I did.”

After making it through high school — what took King six years to achieve as a result of the poor educational environment — college proved to be an impossible obstacle, and King was forced to drop out shortly after the semester began due to financial strain.

He took up a low-wage job in a scrap metal company where he remained for the next six years. His hope was to stay with the scrap company long-term but 2013 took a hit to the company and had to downsize resulting in King being let go. “I had nothing to show for it.”

Worse news followed. King’s father passed away during this time. King more than ever needed to find stable work to help his family. He wanted a job, any job. His girlfriend suggested Per Scholas to him and with hope and excitement he applied and was accepted into the program to begin his IT training.

Most students at Per Scholas complete the CompTIA A+ certification, many also obtain the Network+ at the end of the short, intensive training. King was different. In only 14 weeks, he received four industry-recognized certifications: CompTIA A+, Net+, Mobility+, Security+.

“I loved the environment. My class felt like a wolf pack! We are brothers and sisters, and we all have a similar story. I never felt that at any other school. Not in high school, not in college, only at Per Scholas.”

After graduation, King remained with Per Scholas as a Technical Assistant in the classroom. “My all-time favorite memory was my TA experience; giving back and helping lead a pack to achieve success was most memorable. Being a part of changing lives is an awesome feeling.” Following his TA experience, King landed a job with Alphaserve as at Network Operations Center Engineer. It requires him to go out-of-state and help others. He has taken his first plane ride, an experience he never knew was possible with a job. “A few months ago I couldn’t save up for a plane ride. Now they are paying for me to go places!”

As well, King has returned to college and continued earning an additional three certifications while working at Alphaserve. “I had several reasons to strive for them. I strive because I am tired of fighting poverty and I am fighting for the better. Things are better than ever, but I will not settle. I continue to strive. Per Scholas was a life-changing — life-saving — experience for me.”

For more information about King, click here.

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