Meet Keonte

“A year ago, I wouldn’t have been able to do this interview,” Keonte says as he reflects on where he was before participating in New Door’s employment program. “I was quiet and nervous. That was me.”

With the consistent and personalized support of his employment specialist, Roberto, 18-year-old Keonte made several strides, including landing a job at Homeroom, a popular mac and cheese restaurant in Oakland, where he works after school four days a week. He’s saving his earnings to go toward his college tuition and meal plan. “I just want to go to college to find, what do I want to be? Who am I?”

It wasn’t so long ago that Keonte had no idea what might come after high school, and was worried that he wouldn’t be able to complete his finals—which would ultimately mean he couldn’t graduate. Roberto helped him expand his sense of possibility. Even though Keonte’s school’s stated policy excluded the option of extensions, Roberto encouraged Keonte to at least ask. “I needed Keonte to understand that, when you are stuck, you have to push yourself.”

 

And Roberto’s encouragement shifted something in Keonte. “I’d stay up all night, just working, doing whatever I can, emailing my teachers. I learned that I’m able to change,” he says.

Roberto sees the shift in Keonte, too. “I noticed huge changes in Keonte,” he shares. “His communication got way better. He was able to organize all of his tasks, including schoolwork, coming to the workshops, showing up to case management, showing up to all his shifts.” And it’s not only Roberto who noticed Keonte’s growth. His supervisor at Homeroom observed his diligence, commitment, and ability to balance his responsibilities, and surprised Keonte with a promotion.

“I think Keonte realized how much he can handle, how much support he has,” Roberto reflects. “I think he probably thought he had to do all of this on his own.”

The irony, though, is that, by welcoming the steady supports from New Door, Keonte has in fact figured out how to get things done on his own, as Roberto says, “By the time I hit him up like, ‘Hey, did you take care of this?,’ he’s like, ‘Yeah, I already handled it.'”

It’s a pleasure to inspire in young people the sense of self-efficacy that can carry them through obstacles far beyond their time with New Door Ventures. We look forward to seeing and cheering on Keonte’s continued growth and success.