A Shining Star: Angel Encarnación

Angel Encarnacion
When Angel arrived at ESH’s Youth and Adult Education Services (YAES) in 2012, he had limited English language skills, no formal high school education, but an incredible drive to succeed. Living in a single parent household, Angel’s mother often struggled to put food on the table.

“Sometimes we would just eat beans on bread or add them to broth to make the food stretch for a little while longer,” he reflected.

He realized that in order to make things better for his family, he needed an education

After listening to Angel vent his frustrations with the bullying and gangs he experienced in other programs, a friend recommended that he check out East Side House. He’d found success there himself and thought Angel might too.

Angel soon began classes. Reading below an 8th grade level, Angel was placed at the lowest level of the program to build foundational skills. Teachers, staff, and other students were amazed at his dedication—often staying for tutoring, volunteering to help staff, and taking advantage of all the program had to offer. The work began to pay off: Angel’s academics improved, staff placed him in a paid internship, and he was making friends.

However, Angel’s family’s struggles did not disappear. He often lacked money for things as simple as transportation, food, and winter clothing. At one point, he was walking seven miles each way to attend class, somehow always managing to be the first in the classroom. He never let those factors stop him from striving for his goals.

Upon learning about Angel’s family situation, East Side House staff were quick to act. Social Workers helped Angel’s mother to secure clothes, benefits, and food stamps. Angel was provided with a winter coat and given weekly MetroCards so he could get to class. With these supports in place, nothing could stand in Angel’s way. Things were about to change for him.

He progressed through the program and earned his High School Equivalency diploma, but soon realized that was not enough. He participated in East Side House’s internship program and took evening computer classes to hone his skills. With a renewed sense of self and support from staff, Angel applied—and was accepted to—Bronx Community College, where he is currently studying in hopes of a career in electrical engineering.

We applaud Angel and the many students like him, who despite great odds, sought out help and never gave up.