Sixteen years ago, Yesenia Guzman signed up to be a Jumpstart Corps member at California State University, Fresno. That was when she first met Michelangelo, a shy 4-year-old in the preschool classroom where Yesenia served. At the beginning of the year, Michelangelo’s mother asked Yesenia if she could help him learn to write his name before he started kindergarten. “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, his name is Michelangelo!’” remembers Yesenia. “‘How am I going to do this?’” But she was up for the challenge and began to work regularly with Michelangelo on his name.
Then one week, Michelangelo — who everyone calls Angelo, for short — was out from school. Yesenia reached out to his mom to make sure everything was okay. Angelo had just come down with a bad cold, so Yesenia offered to stop by with some balloons and well-wishes. Something special happened that day. “I remember staying there for hours talking to his mom. From then on, I would stop by every now and again to visit with Angelo’s parents and play with him. As time went by, I just kept in touch.”
“I’m proud to see how much he’s accomplished, and it makes me proud to know I met him when he was just four years old!”
Yesenia and Angelo call each other on their birthdays. She runs into his mom at the store, and still stops by to visit. “It’s been a blessing for me. I’m proud to see how much he’s accomplished, and it makes me proud to know I met him when he was just four years old!”
Yesenia is now an investigator for the public defender’s office, but her time with Jumpstart and Angelo sparked a new calling and inspired her to become licensed as a foster parent.
“Jumpstart really showed me that the impact you make on someone when they’re little can truly affect their future,” says Yesenia. The training she received while at Jumpstart had an impact on her as well. “Jumpstart helped me be a better aunt to my nieces and nephews, and if I decide to have my own kids in the future, all those classes really taught me how to be a better parent.”
“I hope he can accomplish everything that he wants to… I believe he will.”
Three days before Michelangelo graduated from high school last May, his father, who owned a towing company, was struck and killed by a car. Yesenia was by Angelo’s side on his graduation day when he gave a moving speech about his father. Angelo started school at UC Davis this fall, and he says he’s planning to become a doctor. Yesenia worried that the loss of his father might interrupt his college plans, but Angelo told her that he needs to go because that’s what his father had worked so hard for. “I hope he can accomplish everything that he wants to,” says Yesenia. “I believe he will.”