Marco and his 8 siblings moved in with their grandfather after their mother was thrown in jail. Although he was the middle child, Marco always felt like the “big brother” and responsible for taking care of his brothers and sisters. At just 9 years old, Marco grew up way too quickly. He learned to wear a tough exterior so that he could survive in the neighborhood they lived in. By the time he was in high school, he had witnessed the deaths of 3 friends and had seen much more than other young men his age.

Marco’s grandfather constantly struggled to meet the needs of his grandkids. Food was a big issue. Every day at school, Marco had to borrow money or bargain food from friends since he couldn’t afford to buy his own lunch. When Marco learned about the Youth On Their Own program from a friend, he couldn’t believe it: there were people out there who could help! Because of his good grades, Marco earned a monthly stipend to pay for what he needed. He also had weekly access to the Mini-Mall which helped ease his hunger.

Marco is currently a senior in high school and is actively involved in sports and ROTC. He participates in all aspects of YOTO – from serving as an intern in the Resale Home Store to joining the first cohort of the Jobs for America’s Graduates program. After graduating in the spring of 2017, he has plans to join the military and then enroll in a 4-year university. He dreams of studying criminal justice and neurological science so he can really make a difference in the lives of those who need it most.