[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/08/24/art.vanessa.jpg
caption=”Vanessa Nunez, 19, found academic success with the help of Genesys Works.”]
If Vanessa Nunez needed school supplies, she needed to buy them herself. Same went for food and clothes. She started working, busing tables at a local restaurant, to help her single mom pay the bills. Throughout high school, she went to school during the day and worked until 1 or 2 in the morning.
With all her focus on making money to survive, her school work suffered. She had little educational direction until she joined Genesys Works, an organization dedicated to teaching underperforming high school students computer skills and placing them in corporate internships. “Had I not joined Genesys, my life could have been typical: minimum wage, maybe two jobs, no benefits, no vacation, no holidays off, and a lifetime of living paycheck-to-paycheck,” Vanessa, now 19 and a student at University of Houston Downtown majoring in Management Information Systems, says.
Starting out, the training for the organization just added one more thing in her busy schedule. But, after pulling triple duty, she landed a paid IT internship at Marathon Oil that she started her senior year in high school and has continued through college. And earlier this summer, she represented the organization for the launch of the White House Office of Social Innovation. When she walked into the Oval Office to meet President Obama, she recalls he said, “Hello, Vanessa.” She remembers, “Suddenly, all of those long hours of work were worth it. The president knew my name!”
Update: Watch the CNN.com Live interview