Xavier was reserved and had a difficult time speaking up in school and engaging with his peers. Up until his junior year of high school, he focused on his grades and waited to graduate.
One day in 2019, his mother came across a youth after-school and summer program called JAG Works at the local community center in Tolleson. She thought this would be the perfect opportunity for her son to find a community where he could grow.
Xavier joined just before the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent state shutdown. Tolleson JAG Works provided a space for him to grow outside of his comfort zone through community events his JAG Coordinator encouraged him to participate in. Xavier managed registration and hosted booths at various events for JAG and the Tolleson community where he interacted with hundreds of people.
His coordinator also helped put on bonding activities for the program and partnered with Tolleson Teen Council for events, such as the annual Luces de Navidad. Through these social events, Xavier strengthened his public speaking, social skills, and self-confidence. Whenever he felt like giving up on his progress, his coordinator encouraged him to keep going.
“Sonia [JAG Works Coordinator] is perhaps the main reason why I am still involved with JAG. If it had been any other coordinator who didn’t push me to basically come out of my shell and just kind of let me be me, then I probably would have just dropped out of the program early and most likely not be in the position I am in today. I very much thank her a lot and appreciate the time and effort that she takes into supporting her students and caring about them this much.”
He also learned skills for college and career through workshops on resume writing, interviewing skills, professional presence in-person and online, FAFSA, and scholarships. With the knowledge he acquired through the program, he applied for and was accepted into Arizona State University and Northern Arizona University with scholarships to support his education.
Xavier decided to take a break after graduating high school and save up for his education. Instead of attending college right away, he was introduced to employment opportunities through JAG and AmeriCorps VISTA.
Xavier decided to apply for a position with JAG to grow his knowledge base in content creation, design, and web development. He is now in his second year serving at JAG as an AmeriCorps VISTA member and was promoted in October 2022 from News Desk Editor AmeriCorps VISTA to Digital Marketing Specialist VISTA.
Throughout his JAG journey, Xavier learned a lesson that will stick with him beyond JAG, “Don’t be afraid because ‘the only thing to fear is fear itself.’ Just jump into whatever you want to do. Just try it out to see if you succeed or not, and it might be the best decision of your life.”