Leo: Rising from a Beginner to Certified Pro
Leonel De Leon, or “Leo,” grew up in Guatemala and moved to Maryland when he was 12. “I could see a better future,” he says about coming to the United States.
However, his journey hasn’t been without struggles. In 2014, he lost his job and suffered from health problems that kept him in and out of the hospital for 10 months. The pain, unemployment, and being unable to be there for his two children lead to his depression and fear that he had no future.
“I didn’t know what was going to happen. But I didn’t give up all hope,” Leo says. He became determined to recover and go back to school.
One day, Byte Back called him about class registration. Leo says he hadn’t signed up for the call, but it came just at the right time for him. This was a “great accident,” a life-changing accident. He was looking for training opportunities at the time, especially free ones that would prepare him for a career.
He started PC for Beginners, moved onto the intermediate Office Track, and then, with the encouragement of his instructor Francisco, who told him he was smart and determined enough, Leo continued on to advanced classes at the Byte Back IT Academy. He took the Internet & Core Computing Certification (IC3) course and Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) in Excel course.
He feared the IC3 certification exam, however, and had an anxiety attack the first time he took the exam. He didn’t pass that time. With the help of his Byte Back instructor, Andrew Quilpa, he continued studying, took the exam again, felt confident, and earned his certification!
“I love [Byte Back] because there are good people here,” he said about the three instructors and others who have helped him on this path.
This winter, Leo plans to start the A+ Certification Program – a rigorous course preparing students for a career in IT. He then hopes to find an IT position with the government.
“I’m really thankful that I got that call by accident. Without that I don’t know what I’d be doing right now,” he says.
Along with the skills and the opportunity for a new career, Leo has gained something else invaluable, saying “I’m more confident in myself thanks to Byte Back!”
January 2016 Update: Leo earned both his IC3 and MOS Excel certifications and is now studying in the A+ Certification Program, which he’s scheduled to complete in May 2016. He’s pictured right with Monique Riviere, chief program officer, and Elizabeth Lindsey, executive director, at the Winter 2015 Graduation.
August 2016 Update: Leo earned all of the certifications that Byte Back offers. He has found passion in giving back to others now as a full-time AmeriCorps digital literacy instructor at Byte Back.