In February of 2011, Forbes.com named Stockton, California the “Most Miserable City in America” based on its prevalence of unemployment, foreclosures, and violent crime. For teenage Richie, there were many reasons to want to leave Stockton, but starting anew was number one.
When Richie was in 3rd grade, he was diagnosed with dyslexia. Throughout his tenure in school, Richie constantly acted out when it came to reading aloud to avoid participating in class. He fell behind the other kids and eventually, as a sophomore in high school, he dropped out.
Soon after giving up on school, Richie’s father, devastated by losing his job, abandoned Richie and left him to fend for himself. Without a home, family, or education, Richie lived on the streets for two years. He slept in one of the many empty, foreclosed houses in Stockton and worked in various odd jobs around town for food. He felt like it would be a fantasy to have anything beyond mere survival, but he knew that he wanted a better life.
Richie asked a friend of a friend for a ride to San Francisco, dreaming of hope and opportunity. He lived on that person’s couch for a few months and it was here that he heard about New Door Ventures. Richie came to New Door on a Thursday morning for the group interview and Roy, a youth development worker, remembers that Richie walked in the door with a smile on his face. “I never thought I could just get a job,” Richie said, but Richie got a job at Pedal Revolution, the nonprofit bike shop of New Door. It was the first real job that he ever had.
Soon after Richie’s hire, Roy realized Richie needed much academic help. Richie knew he needed to get back into school if he wanted to achieve that better life for himself and he was eager to start. He tested at a 5th grade reading level and could not read the time on an analog clock. In addition to the 15 hours per week of paid employment at Pedal Revolution and the three hours per week of 1:1 personalized case management, Richie started coming to New Door three additional days per week for academic tutoring .
New Door employs a part-time GED teacher, and Richie worked closely with both this teacher and volunteer tutors to prepare for his GED. This led our GED teacher to say, “Richie works hard. He shows a good attitude and he inspires me.”
Richie has been diligent in his six-month internship at Pedal Revolution and continues his academic tutoring. He now reads at an 11th-grade reading level and has begun reading for leisure during his free time. Richie said, “I never read for fun on my own, but now I’m reading Fool Moon, the second book [in a three-part series].” He’s on pace to pass all five GED tests in the coming months.
Richie has dreams of going to college someday, but never thought it would be possible two years ago. “I can plan for a future with New Door. When I was living on the streets, I just wanted to survive…Now I’m working, paying for rent at my own place, studying four days a week, and I’m going to go to college.”
"Life is what you put into it." - Richie
In May 2012, Tipping Point Community, the bay area’s leading funder of poverty-fighting organizations, found Richie’s story so inspirational, that they chose to feature his story at their annual benefit dinner. They filmed Richie telling his story and showcased it to a crowd of nearly 1,000 individuals. Thanks in part to Richie's Journey, the benefit raised the most money in Tipping Point's seven-year history.
Read the article about the benefit in the San Francisco Chronicle →