Out of 600 seniors at his High School in Brooklyn, Keon was one of just 280 to graduate. Looking to be the first in his family to earn a college degree, he enrolled at Borough of Manhattan Community College – and, unprepared for the academic rigor, flunked out within a year. He tried again, this time at Devry University. And once again, he flunked out within a year. At this point, Keon was referred to Career Gear through the SUNY Bridge Program as a 21 year old hoping to look professional for the workforce. Keon left Career Gear with a new suit “I will never forget, it was a brand new Brooks Brothers suit!” (Donated by our long time corporate partner Brooks Brothers.)
Keon also decided to take advantage of the free classes on workforce preparedness, financial literacy and life skills that Career Gear offered. It was at Career Gear’s Professional Development Series program that he found a source of mentorship and a community of support. “They helped me. They gave me advice and helped push me forward.”
Keon soon landed his first job working at JFK as an aircraft cleaner, which he enjoyed for its globalized nature “I cleaned the inside of 747s from places like London, Sao Paolo, and Abu Dhabi. It was fun.”
But Keon still dreamed of higher education. He showed that the third time really is the charm and earned his Liberal Arts Associate Degree from Borough of Manhattan Community College. And then, with a 3.7 GPA to boot, he earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Cultural & Historical Studies from the City College of New York.
Despite being raised in a fatherless household and experiencing academic failure, Keon earned his degrees, now holds a steady job, and still has ambition for the future. “I want to grow. Expand my horizons, and experience some upwards mobility… and help others. I like to see other people happy. I love it. It’s not just about me.”
While he might credit Career Gear with motivation and preparation “the guys here at Career Gear were kind of like the father I never had,” the foundational resources were his mother, grandmother, and community in Brownsville, Brooklyn. “The whole neighborhood and my church, they raised me.” Having continuously overcome and surpassed adversity and obstacles to his personal and professional growth, there’s little as inspirational as Keon’s continued commitment to personal progress and selfless community enrichment.