Jermaine Villaflores sits in a classroom at Bishop McNally High School in Calgary

Jermaine’s Journey: How “All In” for Youth changed my life

Jermaine Villaflores sits in a classroom at Bishop McNally High School in Calgary

Jermaine Villaflores is a successful 2013 high school graduate thanks to the newly launched “All In” for Youth initiative. This new, targeted initiative is aimed at cutting drop out rates in Calgary by 50% over the next five years. Jermaine is one of the first students to successfully take part in the initiative. This is the speech he gave at the June 12 launch of “All In” for Youth.

My name is Jermaine Villaflores. I am turning 20 years old in 9 days. I am also a successful graduate of Bishop McNally High School. Before I begin, I just want to say a few things about the “All In” for Youth initiative. The initiative gave me a strong foundation towards reaching my goals and I never would have reached success if it wasn’t for the initiative itself and the teachers and staff involved. Also, without this initiative, I would’ve never been great at public speaking nor talking in front of a camera so I’d also like to thank everyone for that.

My story is almost like every struggling student. I’m not saying I’m not intellectual because I know I can go far if I do the work. I have always wanted to graduate high school, reach post-secondary and earn a profession. But I never prioritized school as much as the old habits I was into – including partying, smoking and getting into trouble at home. I never took life seriously and I was eventually in debt with $5,000 in my credit card at the age of 18. Also my girlfriend at the time didn’t see a future in me and, in my perspective, that relationship ended at the wrong time.

Jermaine Villaflores speaks at United Way's "All In" for Youth launch on June 12
Jermaine Villaflores speaks at United Way of Calgary and Area’s “All In” for Youth launch on June 12 at Bishop McNally High School.

While I was dealing with all these problems, I wasn’t able to sleep, wasn’t able to focus and I lacked motivation to succeed in school. Being broke, unemployed, not getting caught up with school, and dealing with a break up was probably one of the toughest challenges I had to face as a young adult. Eventually I earned a job at a fast food restaurant and, quite honestly, I can’t see cooking chicken for the rest of my life as a dream career. I decided I needed a better occupation with greater pay and eventually worked as a detailer for rental cars. I thought at that time this was the life! I was cleaning and driving cars I never would have had the chance to be in the driver’s seat of. As I worked away happily, my coworkers were having a hard time keeping a smile on their face. I could see the struggle and amount of hours they had to put in just so they could live an average life. One of my coworkers at the time was attending SAIT and told me I should finish school. Finish what I’d started.

I never had a plan until he told me these exact words: “If you don’t design your own life plan, chances are you’ll fall into someone else’s. And guess what they have planned for you? Not much.” This quote opened my eyes to a better perspective and I was really shocked how I felt a sudden shift in my life. Eventually I was motivated and had all the energy to go back to school.

I made a decision and the next day I asked the principal and vice principal from Bishop McNally. They welcomed me back first thing. At the time I had no idea about this initiative. My goals were just to upgrade my marks. Then the vice principal suggested an initiative for students coming back because they didn’t graduate. I didn’t get a call that I should come back to school but it was self-motivation that lead me to this initiative.

“All In” for Youth has helped me in various ways by getting rid of those obstacles that were in the way of my success. The initiative has paid for my school so I can graduate and if I was back in my country, I would’ve had to struggle getting the money for school with low employment opportunities. We came to Canada from the Philippines to obtain a better opportunity in life. This is one of the best opportunities I had to take advantage of and, with all that help, I’m a 2013 graduate of Bishop McNally High School.

For my future plans, I still want to achieve a profession in the medical industry as my plan A. In 5 days, I begin my course at Robertson College and I will be taking the Pharmacy Technician course. It will be another 10 months of school, but I’m happy to realize at this age what is at stake. Because of this initiative, I was able to become positive and be confident with myself. Because of this initiative, it has completely changed my life around. Because of this initiative, I am able to organize and make myself flexible for upcoming goals. Because of this initiative, I realized how important education is. And because of this initiative, I’m All In.

Congratulations to Jermaine on successfully completing high school! 

What do you think it takes for youth to be successful in school and beyond?