André Mons Ybañez juggles a lot. A testament to his diligence and his compassion for the community, Andre is currently a full time student at UMBC pursuing his Masters in Social Work while simultaneously employed in the Prince George’s County Workforce Program at the Maryland Multicultural Youth Centers. He currently works with 11th and 12 grade students in assisting them to graduate high school, assisting with the college enrollment process, providing job readiness training and professional development. In addition to these services, he also performs the case management that is necessary to ensure that their other needs are met and the they have a better transition into adulthood. In 2009, Andre was also a former Heart Award Recipient where he did a peace walk with the goal of promoting a message of non-violence in the community following the murder of a well-known and loved youth named Tai Lam. We recently caught up with Andre to learn more about him and his advice for Heart Award recipients:

What is one of your future aspirations?
One of my biggest aspirations is to become a high school counselor and be able to assist the students that are in need of support that may not get any other kind of support in their lives; Some may get the message that they will not succeed in life even from school staff, which can be something that can encourage their decisions to drop out of school and not aspire to anything due to the fact that the negative thoughts and opinions of them have been internalized and has caused sufficient psychological and/or emotional damage.

Who inspires you?

The person that inspires me is my very first mentor, Sandra D. Shepherd. Before joining her program after school, I was not allowed to do anything that did not involve school and home. Although I was not a “bad student”, had I not joined her program, I would have remained stagnant; not knowing what to do in life, not being confident of my skills to face the real world, and not having any aspirations in life. Sandra always motivated me and pushed me to be the best that I can be. She believed in me when no one else did and when I needed the most motivation in life. When no one was having the discussion about college and my future, she made it seem mandatory and assisted me with the process. After my first year of college, she offered me a position in her AmeriCorps program as soon as it was introduced to the office. She coached me and gave me the opportunity that I never thought I would be good enough for: a leadership role. I was one of the two full time AmeriCorps members for two years in a row and then I was offered the position I am in today. She has also been instrumental in me continuing my studies by always giving me advice in terms of school and personal matters.

What is one piece of advice you have for those applying for an IGH grant or those simply looking to impact their community?

I would say that they should never doubt themselves and be very open minded. When you doubt yourself, you limit what you are capable of; the same goes for being close minded. You cannot envision great things if you don’t allow for those ideas to have the capacity to grow and develop. By limiting those opportunities, you are not only hindering yourself, but you are also hindering those who could benefit from those ideas.

Fun Facts:
Favorite Food: Barbecue Ribs
Favorite Musical Artist: Daddy Yankee and Christina Aguilera
Ideal Place to Travel: Cuba
A Celebrity You’d Love to Meet: Sean “Diddy” Combs

Want to impact your community like Andre? Be sure to apply for an IGH Grant by December 5th! Email info@heartawards.org for any questions or inquiries regarding Heart Awards.