Pursuing his dream despite all the suffering

14 November 2022

Jacques was taken into the care of the DYP from age 14 to 17. Despite the hardships caused by his parents’ alcohol addiction, he persevered by hanging onto his dream. Here is the touching story of a courageous boy who was able to show extreme resilience in dealing with the turmoil that riddled his life.

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At the age of 12, Jacques was alone and isolated. Both his parents have serious drinking problems and failed to take care of him. After his mother left, he went to live with his father, who was often away from home for long periods. For very long periods. Jacques had to ration his food to last until the next time the fridge would be filled with a few meagre groceries.

My father would leave me by myself for two or three weeks. I often fainted at school because I didn’t eat. Sometimes, all I had for the day was orange juice in the morning. At 12 years old, I was afraid and starving.

Jacques

Move after move, Jacques started to fall tremendously behind in school, starting back in grade school. He missed a lot of school days as his father simply could not get up in the morning to bring him to school. Despite his natural gift for academics, the challenges were too big. Jacques started to isolate himself little by little, and more and more.

Group home: safe yet confusing

High school starts and Jacques gets placed in a DYP group home at the age of 14. It was doubly shocking.

Overnight, he was living with other youths who did not have much in common with him. As he is used to being left on his own, adapting to group living was difficult. Despite the comfort provided by the home, he had trouble finding his bearings.

The second shock came when he realized just how not normal his life was. He becomes aware that solitude, negligence and abandonment are not situations that a youth should have to experience. 

For the first time, adults really took care of me. I could ask the youth workers every question imaginable. They took the time to answer my questions. I was important enough for them to take the time to answer me.

Jacques

Slowly, a routine settled in. This reassuring routine allowed him to put in more effort into his school work. He had to take a lot of Saturday classes and spent summer days in math class to catch up.

A teacher who changed everything

In Grade 9, a teacher saw a lot of potential in Jacques and an intense desire to succeed. She submitted his application for his high school’s international program. Jacques was accepted. It was a turning point in his story. For the first time, he was surrounded by youths who were like him and who shared his interests. For the first time, Jacques felt really accepted and understood.

The international program allowed me to get involved. I took part in extracurricular activities, I did volunteer work and these experiences were very beneficial for me. I learned to assert myself and to gain confidence in myself and my abilities.

Jacques

As he was finishing CEGEP, he applied to university. Adulthood was finally starting! His first apartment, first lease and he finally received the much anticipated letter: he was indeed accepted to the engineering physics program at the Polytechnique Montréal engineering school.  His dream of becoming an engineer to help fight climate change was finally coming true!

An unexpected lapse

As he was used to living from disaster to disaster, Jacques was constantly in “survival mode.” Just when everything seems to be falling into place for him, his world crumbles. 

Stress from school, financial burdens and all the suffering that I was unable to resolve took their toll on my mental health. I dropped my courses and ended up quitting university. I would have preferred not doing that, but it wasn’t possible to fight all the battles at once.

Jacques

He falls into a deep depression. Jacques then has a lot of work ahead of him to understand and accept all his hurt. He goes to therapy to help him overcome all the trauma.

As he didn’t want to lose sight of his goal, Jacques enrolled in a computer certificate program. As it is less demanding than an undergraduate engineering degree, this diploma will allow him to develop new skills, and above all keep up with his studies.

The Fondation is helping him to pursue his dream

Jacques may work full time, but the current cost of living and the student debt he incurred are an additional burden.

Fortunately, thanks to the Fondation’s School Perseverance program, Jacques was given a computer that meets his study program’s requirements plus food cards, and the Fondation supports him by paying his tuition fees.

Jacques is doing better today. His goal is to return to his studies at the engineering school next fall.

I volunteer at the robotics club at my old high school and I keep in touch with the youths and teach them in turn that in life, there are ups and downs. When you’re surrounded by meaningful people, you can get back up. Volunteering is my way of giving back. Because finally, in the last few years, I have received a lot.

Jacques

Jacques wanted to share his story to show his everlasting gratitude to the strangers who invested in his future, when at a certain point, he himself didn’t even believe in it.

Thank you for bringing hope to the youths in the care of the DYP!

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*A special thanks to the communications team at Polytechnique Montréal for welcoming us with such enthusiasm and for their generosity during the shoot.

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