A New Beginning

I am Chantal Krystiniak. I drove 2,270.1 miles from  Grand Rapids, MI to Redding, CA to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA for one year. I have learned about tri-tip and freeways and that California does not have fireflies. More importantly, I have learned about California Heritage YouthBuild Academy’s commitment to providing our youth with a second chance.

The reason I am now Ms. Krystiniak, or Ms. K, is because of the love and opportunity that CHYBA provides for their students.

I felt this for the first time today when Mrs. Cathy Taylor (Principal, Executive Director, Special Ed Teacher, Grant Writer, Fund Development and Volunteer Manager, wearer of many hats) spoke to our group of new and returning students. “We are a family. We respect and watch out for each other. We do not have the drama and social issues of your old high schools”, confirmed Mrs. Taylor.

The energy in the room immediately changed from nervousness to relief; commitment from the leader of our school that this is a safe, flexible, supportive environment where everyone is invested in the success of others.

CHYBA is a second chance for all of us here, staff and students. Every one of us has a unique story. It could be that comprehensive high school was not a fit for the students or the jobs we left were not fulfilling. Regardless, we are here to accomplish a common goal: to be successful with our second chances.

Today I begin my third week here at CHYBA.  After two weeks of recruiting and enrolling students, we have completed our first day of school for the 2015-2016 school year. We took the CHYBA pledge. We are inspired. We are ready to learn, ready to thrive.

I am not a teacher and I am not a counselor; however, I am a voice creating awareness in the community about the opportunity gap for young people and effects of poverty in rural areas.

I found CHYBA when I needed direction for my career and life. I am here to sustain the YouthBuild program at CHYBA and support the students that are brave enough to face their fears and attack their dreams.