Tahje Howard began working with YOU Boston a few years ago, when he met some of our case managers at a local job fair near his house. He graduated high school in the spring, and is currently at an Individual Internship Placement at Whittier Street Health Center in Roxbury. Previously, Tahje had worked with one of our summer work teams, doing landscaping in a different part of the city. Tahje was supposed to keep working with YOU Boston after his previous placement, but, as he says, he got caught up in the streets. We’re glad he’s back, and excelling at his current placement!

“I’ve seen it all, so I’ve gotta keep going and never give up.”

Tahje grew up in Boston with his mom. For a long time, they were living in public shelters. It was the worst time of Tahje’s life. He never wants to go back to those shelters, but he keeps that memory in his mind to motivate himself. Throughout high school, Tahje says he had a similar experience to many African American teenagers. He was confused and didn’t really know what he wanted out of life. He says he had friends that were dragging him away from his responsibilities, but he didn’t even realize it. His family tried to tell him, but he wouldn’t listen because he was young and naive. Tahje says if he had known then what he knows now, he wouldn’t have put himself in the same situation. 

Unfortunately, Tahje’s situation got worse. One of his friends was incarcerated, which affected him severely. He was still going to school, but he wasn’t doing his school work. Eventually, he needed to re-enroll at the McKinley School. Tahje recalls how angry he was at himself during this time. He had worked so hard from sixth to eighth grade so that he could get into high school, so having to go back was a huge blow to him. But after about a year, he started working on his mindset and trying to improve his outlook on life. Tahje says that he’s seen it all, and he has to keep going and never give up. It’s hard to stay strong through everything, but Tahje keeps pushing every day to improve himself.

“If it wasn’t for [team supervisor] Ruby encouraging me every day, I don’t know where I’d be.”

Tahje first met our Senior Career Development Specialist, Christian Rivera, when he was working at YOU Boston his first time. Tahje stood out to Christian because he was a hard worker, and he felt he would be an ideal candidate to take on additional challenges in an individual internship placement. As Christian worked to match Tahje with an internship placement for the summer, they developed a close bond. Christian recalls that after Tahje started on the work team with YOU Boston, his attitude immediately changed. He began to ask for the help that he needed, take initiative, and improve himself. This was the second relationship Tahje had made at YOU Boston. He says he had developed a bond before this with one of our team supervisors, Ruby Jean. Ruby helped Tahje change his mentality about working. As Tahje says, Ruby would remind him of the importance of coming to his job and putting in the effort everyday, and that if he didn’t work hard, he would never improve. Ruby says that from the Men’s Group, to college tours, to being on a work team, and then to his Individual Placement, Tahje soaked up as much information as he could and then applied it, he was very aware of what he needed to work on, and willing to improve. Tahje says he held on to that, and Ruby became like a big brother to him. When Tahje didn’t get his initial choice for a landscaping job this summer, he was upset. But, Christian and Ruby assured him that he’d worked too hard to not find a job. Tahje got a call the next morning from Ruby telling him that he would start work the day after, at Whittier Street Health Center.

“Growing up, I didn’t have the mentality that I needed to put full effort into everything I did. Now, I live by that every day.”

Tahje loves working at Whittier Street Health Center. He says he’s learning things that he wouldn’t learn anywhere else, like advanced disinfecting and cleaning techniques. On any average day for Tahje, he’ll come in to work, and do a sweep of the whole building to check what needs to be cleaned. He’ll start by dusting the back staircase, then he’ll mop and sweep any floors that need to be cleaned, and he’ll pick up any trash he sees laying around as well. Sometimes, he’ll cut new boxes in the basement or water the plants. Tahje takes pride in having some autonomy and being able to be responsible for his work product. Growing up, he says, he didn’t have the mentality that he needed to put full effort into everything he did. Now, he realized he needs to do everything effectively and responsibly. He cleans even the tiniest crumbs off the floor, and scrubs every floor and wall completely clean. As Tahje’s supervisor Alex says, cleaning and janitorial work can seem unimportant. But, at a Health Center, the importance of equipment and rooms being properly disinfected is literally an issue of life and death. If a patient’s exam room or a doctor’s instruments, or even a hallway aren’t properly cleaned, vulnerable patients can become even more sick. Tahje also says time flies when you’re invested in the work you’re doing!

If Tahje could give any advice to potential youth employees, he would say this: If you want to be happy ten years from now, get on your stuff. You have to work and push yourself to be successful, you have to work hard on everything that you do, you can’t be lazy and expect to be somewhere great.