Meet Brandon Ruth—a 28-year-old Roanoke native. He walks into in the Goodwill Headquarters with anxious anticipation as he sits down to complete paperwork to begin his internship. “I want nothing more than to start working, learn everything I possibly can, and do great things.” This deep desire could not be taken lightly. These words were from the heart. Reflecting on everything he has overcome, I could not help but ponder what does it take to change a life and what turning points led Brandon to the doors of Goodwill?
Brandon had a very stable childhood with a loving mother and one younger brother. Although he has never met his biological father, he has received tremendous love and support from his stepfather who welcomed him with open arms. In his earlier years, Brandon did well in school and put a lot of energy in to his first love: baseball.
Like many teens he was subjected to peer pressure. He was introduced to alcohol and narcotics. He became rebellious, and the mystery of the unknown excited him. In reflection Brandon, says with subtle regret, “I could have been a great baseball player, but instead, I chose skateboarding.” With this newfound passion for skateboarding, he also ran into the wrong influencers. He encountered a string of legal trouble that carried on until his senior year in high school.
Knowing the challenges this caused he sought to change his life and distance himself from the environment and the friends who were holding him back. To change his life, he knew that he needed more discipline. He wanted be on the right path. He wanted to prove himself to everyone who believed in him.
Brandon decided to join the U.S. Military Reserve. His time in the reserves was not in vain. He tapped into and cultivated two of his major traits: persistence and attention to detail. He hoped that his time in service would be his major turning point, but he still felt a void. It seemed to be a temporary bandage to the deep wounds and scars of the past.
When he returned home from the Reserves, he reconnected with old friends and the partying began. A vicious cycle of substance abuse ensued. During this time, he began to see former classmates progressing. They were graduating with bachelor’s and master’s degrees and he wished that he had listened to the positive role models who foresaw his current state. He eventually started trying to make himself a better person and pursuing goals slowly by surrounding himself with positive and successful people.
It was during this time, he met the love of his life who was always there to encourage and support him.
They say that miracles do happen and Brandon had found his miracle and his final turning point. Brandon was going to be a father. Becoming a father completely changed him and turned his life around. Brandon was able to transition from a self-centered mindset to a higher set of ideals—family. He desired to do better and be better. He wanted to build a solid future. He wanted to undo the damage of years past. He wanted to be a positive influence on his daughter’s life. He wanted to provide her with a great childhood. Now, he was ready to make the commitment, and with great pride, he has not gone back to that lifestyle in years. His daughter Layla, now two years old, was a major influence on Brandon’s life, motivating him every day to do better.
Determined to feed his hunger for personal and professional growth, Brandon found Goodwill’s Technology Training program* which trains people to begin their career as a Technical Support Specialist. Despite any setbacks he might have experienced, he set them aside and he showed up to training every day. His attention to detail and persistence helped Brandon successfully pass the nationally recognized CompTIA A+ certification—a credential that even seasoned professionals meet with difficulty.
This brings us back to where we started…Brandon sitting with me and filling out his paperwork for his IT Internship. He was able to secure an entry-level Technical Support internship with Goodwill and soon he will begin the three months internship where he will learn the functions of technical support: troubleshooting computers systems and understanding and how they fall within larger networks. This internship will provide exposure and experiences that so many IT departments are seeking. Along with ongoing mentoring and professional development, this will catapult Brandon’s career on a positive trajectory.
When I think of Brandon, I see an overcomer. From him, we can learn how to change a life. There are multiple turning points that one will meet along the journey. Some turning points we actively create and others pursue us. However, nothing is possible without 360-degrees of support, ongoing mentorship, and most importantly staying true to oneself. Goodwill’s Information Technology Training Program staff has never seen anyone so committed. Any company will benefit from the tremendous value he can add to any team. Brandon brings a strong degree of professionalism to his environment and a thirst for knowledge.
Substance abuse destroys lives, but overcomers rebuild them. Brandon has been able to overcome this challenge. He has forgiven himself and is committed to helping others. For those of you who are struggling in your own circumstances, it is easy to look back with regret and be crippled by it. However, now that you acknowledge where you are currently, ask yourself what your strategy is to overcome and forge a path forward.
In closing, Brandon reminds us, “Never give up. You can do anything in this world. Even if people think you can’t do it, show them that you are that person that can do it.”
*The U.S. Department of Labor- Employment and Training Administration is providing a $1,084,693.78 grant award representing 76 percent of the total cost of operating Careers in Technology training. Goodwill is contributing leveraged funding valued at $333,333 to cover the remaining 24 percent of operational costs.