Meet Christian, full-time dad, student, and mentor
Tell us about yourself and growing up in NYC.
I was born and raised in New York. Growing up was tough. I had my daughter, Xarella, at 18 while I was in high school and my mother passed away. I was doing well in high school, but didn’t have high enough scores on the regents to graduate. I always knew I was smart enough. I kept telling myself I’m going to college, even if I fail this test 100 times. My perseverance is one of my best attributes. My daughter is my centerpiece.
Can you tell us more about her?
I wake up at 6:45 and she wakes up ready to go to school. My daughter likes to help me cook. She likes to mop; she’ll cry if I don’t let her mop! She does the easy dishes—she’s only 4—the dishes that don’t have a lot of scrubbing. She loves to sing and dance too. I always have to make sure that I’m playing the right music for her.
Tell us more about yourself. How did you get to where you are now?
My mom passed away when I was 16. I had $10, no haircut (I’m big on my haircut), no lights in my house. I didn’t know what I was going to do. But I did know how I want to be in the long run, so I concentrated on doing what I needed to do to get there. Before my mom passed away, she told me to stay in school. I left school, but made a 360. I had some people doubt me but I also knew I’d make it and my sister believes in me too.
I started going to get my GED, but it was not a good environment for me to learn. One of the teachers mentioned he was going to start teaching at the CUNY Fatherhood Academy and recommended I apply. Everyone is supportive. They have the resources for you to be successful. They help with college and career prep, meal tickets, and Metrocards. They also helped me buy all of my college books. It’s a real family vibe—there is so much support.
After CUNY Fatherhood, I did CUNY Start and I’m now going full time at LaGuardia through College Discovery, majoring in Physical Therapy.
With all the priorities in your life, how do you manage? How do you stay motivated?
I’m busy seven days a week. I’m in school, I’m mentoring at CUNY Fatherhood, I’m with my daughter. My sister plays a big role and helps me. When I’m in school she watches my daughter. If I’m really tired, she’ll take my daughter out to movies, or shows like Disney on Ice.
I stay positive and I don’t surround myself with negative influences. I don’t have bad influences anymore, they can bring people down and usually why you can’t get past a barrier.
I also talk a lot, and say what am I going to when I graduate. I have to back up my talk!
Being a mentor at CUNY Fatherhood motivates me. I‘ve been there so I can relate to the guys. Knowing these guys will get their diplomas makes me want to get my degree and get those grades right.
As a mentor, you’re often advising your peers. What advice do you have for people who might be surrounded by bad influences?
You have to be careful of your surroundings. Be around people who care about you and who can help you when you’re down.
Start with changing small things. For example, if you smoke cigarettes, tell yourself whenever you’re stressed to drink water.
You have to clean yourself up. People take you as seriously as you take yourself.
For dads, just be there for your kids. They won’t know you’re struggling. You don’t need to buy your kids 10 pairs of Jordans. If you teach them how to read, they can buy their own Jordans.
And what about fun? What’s your favorite thing to do in the City and your hobbies?
I like to go to the movies, just not scary movies. They’re not scary, just creepy. If I’m not at the movies, or mentoring, I like to go to the gym, boxing, taking pictures of landscapes, and spending lots of time with my daughter.
I also like reading and writing quotes, my notes are lit. I write a lot, if I have a good thought I jot it down. Some of my favorite writers are Les Brown, Eric Thomas, and Tony Robbins. I’ve always enjoyed reading lyrics while listening to music, so that’s how I got into it.
Where do you see yourself in the next three years and the next five years?
In the next three years, I’ll have my associate’s degree for sure. My daughter will be really smart, I’ll be teaching her. And I want a car. I don’t want to overload myself and put too much pressure on one year, but have a plan for the next three or five.
By five years, I want to go for my next degree in school, be more financially stable and getting my mind right. I’m not sure what else now, but I know I’m getting that degree. I can see it already.
My family grew up on public assistance and some of them still struggle. I’m trying to break that barrier. I can be legendary in my family if I get my degree. I want to be a positive example for them.