Overcoming obstacles and beating the odds.
Life is challenging for so many of us right now, so we put together some inspiring stories of success to give you a window into what is possible with encouragement and hope. We selected stories that will show you the courage that our youth posses to get past challenges and overcome obstacles. Be encouraged if you are in a tough spot. Struggle is a part of every good story.
We hope you are inspired by these stories of others who overcame obstacles and rose to success.
As their lives show, potential doesn’t discriminate – only opportunity does.
At 14, Anthony was struggling with homelessness and a gang-involved family. BUILD became his lifeline. With support and hard work, he graduated high school, college, earned an MBA, worked for the late Rep. Elijah Cummings on Capitol Hill, and now is in financial services—specializing in consumer, small business and economic inclusion policy. As a leader and change-maker, Anthony is just getting started.
Born in the US, Uriel was raised in Mexico - and at age 12, he was eager to help his hardworking single mother. He started working for a local drug cartel, but after four close friends were all murdered, his terrified mother sent Uriel to live with relatives in Chicago. Struggling, he drifted back to gangs and fought in school, where his dean referred him to BUILD, and mentor Felix Jusino.
“Felix really tried to help me,” says Uriel. “He wanted me to understand that what I was doing was not good, and it was going to lead to more drama and violence in my life. But I didn’t listen.” His gang involvement deepened, he survived a gunshot wound, and was arrested on a gun charge. Alone and scared, the only person he could think to call was Felix, who came right away.
Felix helped the family navigate the courts, got Uriel out of prison and into house arrest, and into a steady job. When a short time later Uriel lost his closest friend to gun violence, Felix helped him manage grief and rage, too— or “how to CHILL” as he always called it. “I realized I couldn’t risk going back to jail and disappointing my family anymore. I had to stay focused on the bigger picture for my life.” Felix helped him get a laptop, materials to study for his GED, and to think about a future. “He was consistent in giving me positive things to do. He gave me his word to help me, and he is still doing that today.”
Felix negotiated Uriel’s detachment from his gang, and with his natural leadership skills, Uriel soon convinced other friends to leave also. Today Uriel works steadily, sends money to his mother in Mexico, and feels better about his choices.
“There is more than one way we suffer,” says Zaire. In her home, Zaire had two sisters, a mother sick with multiple sclerosis, and a grandmother so scared of the violence outside that she didn’t let the girls leave the house.
The one place she was allowed to go was school, and BUILD was there. And one day Zaire took home a flier for BUILD’s spring break art program. “Amazingly, my grandma let me go—because it was just for one week,” she says. “That week changed my life.”
Immersed in art and surrounded by positive peers, Zaire felt she could let go for the first time. “I discovered my own love for art. I learned art could help me process everything going on at home. And most importantly, I found a safe place. A place that became a door to my own future.”
Cheveris first came to BUILD in 2013, already fighting and skipping school in fifth grade. BUILD mentors connected, redirected, stayed with him, and by high school Chevy was training as a peer leader and mentor himself, working with younger BUILDers and bringing in more friends. Graduating this past spring at 18, he secured an assistant kitchen manager job in a busy restaurant - and months of savings have helped him buy a car and get his own apartment. Someday, he wants to open his own restaurant - and credits BUILD for getting him on a “better life path, and keeping me going.”
Angie came to BUILD as a sophomore in high school in 2019, one year after her family arrived from Venezuela as political asylees. Despite major language and financial barriers, Angie had big plans for her future, and BUILD was the support she needed. Her mentor Gabi helped line up coursework, applications, financial aid, and Angie worked tirelessly to master English and graduate with top grades. This fall, she is a freshman at University of Wisconsin-Madison’s College of Engineering, training for her dream, and Gabi stays close to her whole family, supporting all as they face the new challenges of this phase. ‘She is a leader in every sense of the word,” says Gabi. “I admire her so much.”
Sedrick came to BUILD in elementary school, already angry, quiet and unwilling to talk about traumas in his past. After a few years, though, he started to sign up for activities: playing basketball and softball, working in the garden - and eventually, to everyone’s surprise - BUILD Radio. A microphone helped him find his voice, by the time he was through middle school, Sedrick was one of BUILD’s best advocates - famous for his laugh and his spotless Air Jordans, training as an Apprentice Mentor and recruiting other kids to BUILD - most recently, his own little brother Philip.
Sedrick’s own mentor Jeremy couldn’t be prouder. “Sedrick’s willing to grow from anything life brings him now, big or small,” he says. “His future is going to shine bright.”
Cierra was always interested in medicine, but never had anyone to help her chart a path to that future. She always struggled in school, but with the help of her mentor, Annita, Cierra gained focus, lined up the required courses and testing, and this fall became the first person in her family to go to college - Harris-Stowe State University in St. Louis.
As a biology major in e-learning, it’s a lot to handle - but she stays in close touch with her mentor. Annita and BUILD will stay right there with her, cheering her on as she continues to blossom and pursue her dream of helping others in medicine.
There’s something engaging about Latee. He’s soft-spoken, but shakes hands with a strong grip. He thinks before he speaks, imagines his future, and carries himself with the assurance of a leader. Scarcely a year ago, Latee was in the hospital with a serious bullet wound. It was gang-related. He wasn’t a bystander – he’d been gang-involved for years. “I won’t lie -- I liked it at first. If I wanted money, I didn’t ask my mom. I just went and got it.” In Austin, that meant selling drugs. It sounds easy, but comes with a difficult lifestyle. Getting high. Less time in school, and more on the streets. Dangerous friends and violent enemies. No one was surprised when Latee got shot.
It was the wakeup call he needed. He knew where he was headed, and chose to change. BUILD was there to help. We knew Latee. He’d been involved intermittently, but had to be barred from group activities, for the safety of others. Yet the door remained open – once he was ready. “People at BUILD are doing things with their lives. I get experiences I’d never in my life have,” like Bulls games, sports leagues, and a leadership council. He looks forward to a planned community cleanup. “Austin could be great, if you took away the gangs and violence.” He doesn’t know it yet, but Latee’s a natural leader. Give him time. He’s just getting started.