It has taken Quincy Youngs two years to start getting his life back on track. What’s another couple of hours?
A two-hour bus ride takes the 20-year-old St. Petersburg resident from the homeless shelter where he regularly currently resides in north Pinellas Park to the St. Petersburg/Gibbs campus at St. Petersburg College (SPC), where he thrives as a participant in the PITCH program.
Funded through an Educational and Entrepreneurial Training Program grant from the City of St. Petersburg, SPC’s PITCH program is a part of the Cohort of Champions training program under the My Brother’s and Sister’s Keeper initiative. SPC’s PITCH program is designed to help at-risk African American men gain work readiness skills, obtain workplace certifications and enroll in postsecondary education. They also receive guidance regarding career and entrepreneurship options.
SPC’s second cohort of PITCH students is expected to complete their CompTIA A+ IT hardware and software certification course this month. The College also is offering a Cell Phone and Tablet Repair Technician course for PITCH students. The grant pays for the students’ tuition and certification test fees, as well as providing a free college and career readiness courses, mentoring and support services.
Youngs was a graduate in the inaugural PITCH CompTIA A+ class that wrapped up this summer. His success in the program has led to a position as an assistant to the instructor of the current PITCH cell phone repair course. His instructor created the position specifically for Youngs, impressed with his student’s enthusiasm and growing IT interest.
“A technical and rapidly changing field such as cell phone repair requires students to think outside of the box. Quincy is that type of student – he is not afraid to take the time to tackle a new challenge,” said Dwayne Josephson, SPC instructor.
“After observing how well Quincy was excelling in the PITCH A+ class, I was glad to give him the opportunity to attend the cell phone repair classes as my student assistant where he exceeded my expectations again.” Josephson added.
Youngs first heard about the program while at the Pinellas County Justice Center, where he was slated to appear before a judge for a previous missed appearance.
A worker from a community health center approached him and told him about the PITCH program offered at SPC. Youngs was intrigued. While waiting for his case to be called, he reviewed the program brochure, detailing opportunities in IT.
SPC worked with the City and regional businesses to identify careers and industries where a criminal record did not preclude an applicant from being hired. In addition, high demand careers were targeted for the PITCH program.
Youngs, who has a misdemeanor conviction, is optimistic about his future.
“I want to try to apply for a job at Apple; get my foot in the door there,” he said. Youngs also is looking at spring classes at SPC.
Higher education is no longer an impossible dream for Youngs, who admitted to being nervous on his first day at SPC.
“Knowledge is power,” he said.
Participants in PITCH are taking the opportunity seriously, according to Youngs.
“A lot of us were on the same track,” Youngs said of his classmates. “It’s nice to see other people take advantage of PITCH and improving their lives.”
The students’ instructor was equally impressed.
“All of the students in the Cell Phone Repair class have given 110 percent to the program. With each repair came a new real-world challenge they had to solve to be successful,” Josephson said. “Each day I see them putting in the hard-work needed to be a success in the field. It has been my honor help these young men get the real-world experience they need.”
Praising the program, SPC and the City of St. Petersburg, Youngs encourages individuals to contact officials on PITCH.
“Keep your head up. Bury your heads deep in those books,” he said.