Here I am, 23 years old. No marketable skills, no bright future, and a history of alcohol and drug abuse. There was nowhere for me to go. My drug abuse tore me away from my family and my loved ones. Next thing I knew I was locked up. I was sentenced to serve 9 months in county jail. Upon release I was to be sent to a drug rehabilitation center for the next 6 months. I felt like i was moving forward, moving on from the drugs and alcohol, from the crime, and from all the disappointment. I was almost done with my program when I was pushed by my mother to stop "settling" for the bare minimum. She told me I would throw all my success away if I didn't take a step in a positive direction. I needed to keep moving. I felt the sting from that comment. It felt like once again I wasn't good enough. On the trolley heading back to the program I noticed a sign for a trade school that had a welding program, something i had been toying around with pursuing. I didn't give myself time to think myself out of it. I just called. When they tried to set an appointment for me to come in I just agreed. I knew I'd find my way there. I had to. When I made it to my appointment, I talked with the financial aid coordinator and told her I had no money and I wanted to start as soon as possible. She worked her magic and got the financial part all figured out. I was able to start Monday the following week, earlier if I wanted to, but that was the addict mentality giving me a few extra days to think about it. From that day forward i promised myself I would go to school everyday. I would actively learn to be the best student I could be. I promised myself I would be able to take pride in this accomplishment. I graduated in the 90th percentile on attendance, and earned a certificate of performance for my hard work. It wasn't just hard work. It was fun. My new skill set in welding has become a hobby and gives me real drive. Without the student loans I never would have been able to achieve any of this. I never would have seen what success I was capable of, or how proud my family would be of me.