02/07/2013 09:50 am ET Updated Apr 09, 2013

If I Can Do It So Can You!

My name is Lorena De la Cruz. I am 21 years old; I have two beautiful sons ages 4 and 1. Before I came to The HOPE Program I was heading down the wrong path. I was hanging out with the wrong crew and bad influences surrounded me everywhere, which led me to the biggest mistake of my life.

For listening to wrong advice, I am now facing a federal felony charge for importation of illegal substances to the U.S.A. I was let out on Pretrial Arraignment Release and placed in a probation program. My Pretrial Officer, Ms. Amina Adossa-Ali referred me to The HOPE Program, giving me a chance to change my life around and show the judge that I deserve a chance and maybe not get any jail time. It was mandated for me to attend The HOPE Program; if not, it would result as a violation to my probation which means I would do jail time.

When I started the program, the first three weeks were hard and stressful for me. Not only was I having personal issues, but HOPE also has their strict rules. The first three weeks I had a time-management problem; I was always late and it got me in trouble with my officer. Ms. Ali told me, "If I have to make you come see me every morning before 8:30 am just so you can get to HOPE on time, then I will." Guess what? She did!

Well, to make a long story short, even though The HOPE Program was mandated for me, I'm so grateful to be in such a program. At HOPE I've learned time management, and I became proficient in Microsoft Suite. My interviewing skills are great and I learned how to answer the conviction question correctly and professionally. And with HOPE's help, I just earned my GED!

My short-term goal is to be a Receptionist/Office Assistant, and HOPE has opened the doors for me by giving me the proper training and placing me in the perfect internship. I'm interning at the Coalition for the Improvement of Bedford-Stuyvesant ("CIBS"). I do data entry and create calendars of events for the Bedford-Stuyvesant community. I also greet and welcome guests and act as an organization representative in interactions with network partners and community groups. For my long-term goal I want to go back to college and get my AOS degree in Business Administration. My dream is to become a great Office Manager.

HOPE has made me a more confident young woman. HOPE has given me all the support I need, especially my instructor Ms. Knox. She's been like a mother to me; she has seen me go through ups and downs and gives great advice. The rest of the HOPE staff are also wonderful and support you in any way they can. At The HOPE Program you get provided with MetroCards, food, professional clothing including footwear, and mental health services if you need it. So, there is no excuse why not to attend HOPE.

I highly recommend this program to anyone who is trying to make a change in their life and are looking for a better future. HOPE has made me a professional and successful woman, and they can do the same for you. Now I can give my kids a better future and teach them not to make the same mistakes mommy has made. It's never too late to for change as long as you are willing to make that change. I did a paradigm shift and I'm proud of myself. If I can do it so can you!

To support Lorena's continued success, please visit HOPE's Crowdrise page.

To learn more about HOPE and support our results in getting men and women back to work, visit our Crowdrise page.