Carlos Diaz Success Story

I grew up in Lancaster, Pa. Around my middle school years I lived in the area of Stevens Ave. and later moved to Wabank Road. Much of my time was spent playing basketball behind Price Elementary school with friends or riding bikes. If we weren’t outside you could probably find us inside playing video games. Growing up here was all about family and sports for me. I was raised by my mother, father and maternal grandmother. I also have a younger brother and sister. My grandmother raised my mother, aunts and uncles to be very close. As a child, I grew up in a large loving family. Growing up we were brought up more as siblings rather than cousins. My father has always been a big part of my life. He introduced me to sports at a very early age. I followed my father around to many softball games in Lancaster, Philadelphia, New Jersey, New York and even Puerto Rico. I wanted to follow in my father’s footsteps and began playing baseball as well. I began by trying to play 2nd base like him, but eventually got moved to shortstop. I even wore, and still wear, the same number as my father.

My educational experiences before Advantage Lancaster were pretty average. I didn’t think much about how school would shape my future. The only thing I worried about was staying out of trouble and doing well in school. I thought more on a day to day basis rather than how my education would impact my life in the long run.

Life before Advantage Lancaster was more about just getting through the day. I had my routine of going to school, going to baseball or basketball practice or games, going home and starting all over the following day. I wasn’t a bad student and I did well enough academically, but the future of my education was never on my mind.

My biggest educational experience from Advantage Lancaster by far has to be visiting Kutztown College during summer vacation right before my freshman year of high school. This was the first time I had ever stepped foot on a college campus. To see how big it was and to hear some of the things we were told as we toured made me realize that I needed to put a bigger effort into my education. I realized I needed to think more about my future and focus on my grades.

One key factor I learned about in Advantage Lancaster was how to deal with different personalities. I have always been on the shy and quiet side. In middle school and high school there were so many students and if I didn’t want to deal with anyone I would just stay to myself. When I went into Advantage Lancaster it was a small group. We had to deal with all the different personalities and I couldn’t just shy away and stay to myself. After high school I went on to be a supervisor at UPS and that was one tool that I needed dearly. I was now in charge of many different employees with many different personalities. I had loud, angry employees and quiet, shy employees and everything in between. I had to know how to deal with everybody on their good days and their bad days. And I obtained that skill from my time at Advantage Lancaster.
One day while driving home from my job at UPS I was in a car accident in which my car was totaled. In order to get a new vehicle I ended up having to get a car payment. At the time I was also only making enough as a supervisor to support myself. I had recently gotten into a relationship with my current girlfriend who already had 3 children. I realized that I needed to look for a new job that would allow me to be able to not only afford my new car, but also allow me to support my new family. A friend of mine told me about job opportunities at Sygma. After being offered a job through Sygma, they sent me to school to earn my CDL (Commercial Driver License). I am now in my third year in the truck driving industry for Sygma.  

I attended Allegany College of Maryland. This was a very different experience for me. Being able to pick which classes I would take was new to me. On Mondays I only had two classes. Tuesday through Thursday however I had three to four classes. I usually had an average time of about an hour and a half between classes. While I attended school I lived on campus. This meant that I had to do my own groceries and make my own meals. I had to be responsible for finishing my school work since I didn’t have anyone reminding me. I played on the baseball team and had practice daily and games every weekend. I had little time left over to study which made it a challenge. Come spring semester I became “red shirted”, which gave me more time on my hands since I was no longer required to attend games. During this time I began to hang out with friends more frequently and lost sight of the most important end goal, my education. My grades began to suffer and I decided to remove myself from the equation (partying, drinking, etc.) and packed up and came home.

I’m currently in a relationship (5 years) and have 3 children. (11 and 8 year old girls and a 7 year old boy) I am still driving trucks for Sygma. (A company based out of Harrisburg, Pa) and currently deliver to Maryland, Washington DC and even the Pentagon in Va.) My job has also taken me to NY, CT and Mass. I am also beginning the very early steps in the home buying process and hoping we can own our very first home in the next few years.

Advantage Lancaster helped me in many difficult situations because I was able to learn how to interact with people. It also helped me in learning how to handle a diverse group of people. This is a skill that I still use daily when coming across different people in my everyday life and career.

(I am not sure how much of this Advantage Lancaster might already be doing) What comes to my mind is having people to help high school students with college applications. Applying for college was at times confusing for me and my parents (their English was not too strong at that time) and I would have appreciated any help I could have gotten. Everything from applying to college, financial aid or even loans was sometimes intimidating.

I also feel that it would be a great benefit to students and the community to be able to grow and spread this program to other middle schools.