Miguel grew up in a pretty bad neighborhood in Santa Ana, where he witnessed drive-by shootings and other gang violence, drug sales and extreme poverty. Despite this, his parents worked hard to protect Miguel and his siblings from the influences of the street. Miguel did well in school; he attended regularly and was on track to graduate, until he found out that his girlfriend was pregnant. At that point, Miguel decided to drop out and start working so that he could support his growing family.

Because he didn’t have a high school diploma, Miguel wasn’t qualified for jobs that paid more than minimum wage. He found it hard to make ends meet. Frustrated, Miguel started making some bad choices and hanging out with the wrong crowd. Ultimately, at 18, Miguel was arrested and charged as an adult with a felony. “Jail was scary,” recalls Miguel, “I remember thinking that my life was over.”

“Hope Builders taught me not to give up, but to keep going.”

Miguel’s daughter was born when he was in jail. Her birth was a turning point for Miguel and it gave him the motivation he needed to change his life. Once he was released from jail and on probation, Miguel enrolled in Hope Builders’ Construction program. He took advantage of everything that the training had to offer—from Fatherhood classes to interview prep—and even became certified as a solar installer. “Hope Builders taught me not to give up, but to keep going.”

In the six years since Miguel completed his construction training, he has earned a B.A. degree in Communications from ITT Tech and has been steadily employed in the solar industry. Eventually, he wants to manage his own company.