When Irma Palencia was only 9 years old, her mother passed away. Irma became separated from her siblings, and went to live with another family member. She experienced very unfortunate circumstances and faced difficulties that most young teenagers are not equipped to handle. Fortunately, when Irma was 16, she met a friend whose family made her welcome, and made her feel part of a safe and loving family. It was this new friend who eventually introduced her to the WIOA YouthWorks program. Irma enrolled in the program at Gaston College in January 2016 and established two goals: To obtain her Adult High School Diploma, and to gain employment. From the day she enrolled, Irma met all program expectations and participated in every opportunity she was offered. As a result of her tenacity, she received her Adult High School diploma on April 6, 2016. Prior to that, in March 2016, she earned a Silver Level Career Readiness Certification, entered a Work Experience, and also completed her Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which qualified her for a Pell Grant for post-secondary education.
Irma is now 19 years old and enrolled in the Pre-Nursing program at Gaston College. She is grateful for the support and encouragement she received from the College and YouthWorks.
“The YouthWorks program means a lot of things to me,” she said. “It means help, opportunity, and accomplishments. I never thought that I would be able to attend college until my friend Anita introduced me to Tammy McIntyre, a Youth Specialist at Gaston College, and my case manager. The staff of the Gaston College Life Skills department and YouthWorks encouraged me more. They gave me the support I needed. These are the type of people every parent would want around their children.”
Because of her commitment and accomplishments, Irma is the recipient of the 2016 Governor’s NCWorks Award of Distinction as the Outstanding Workforce Development Young Adult.