My name is Diana Altamirano. I was raised in Sunset Park, Brooklyn by a single mother on public assistance. Everyday my mother would remind my siblings and I of how important our education would be for our future. She, unfortunately, was unable to complete elementary school and faced a lifetime of challenges because of it and of course did not want us to struggle like she did. Like most teenagers, I did not take my mother’s advice and became pregnant during my junior year of high school. Just like that, I became a high school drop out. I knew then I had disappointed my mother, and more importantly myself.

I promised my mother that I would work hard to make her proud. During my pregnancy I was determined to change my course and ensure I would not raise my child on public assistance and that’s when I decided I would earn my GED. In 1993, when my son was just a year old, my soon to be husband and I enrolled in OBT and changed our lives forever.

Thanks to the many skills I learned during my time in OBT, I was able to earn my GED and land my first professional job as a fax operator at a law firm in Manhattan. For most of my life I was on SSI (supplemental security income) because I suffered from severe asthma which caused me to miss many days of school. I was proud to let the SSI office know that I was now working and no longer needed the help. With new found confidence and the skills to back me up I was ready to take on the world. I worked for the firm for a year before they decided to outsource the mailroom and fax dept. I was worried of losing my new job so soon but because of my hard work I was hired by the outsourcing company.

A few months after being hired by the outsourcing company, a previous administrator at the law firm called me and offered me an interview at her new law firm in the accounts payable department. I had no experience in that field but because she believed in me and saw how hard I worked she hired me. In May of 1995 I began my career at McDermott Will & Emery. I was inquisitive and always looking for the next challenge while offering to help my supervisors in all areas of the department. Due to that drive to learn, I worked my way up to cash receipt coordinator, then trust officer and now to my current position as billing specialist. I am so proud to have celebrated 23 years at McDermott Will & Emery this May. I owe it all to OBT for giving me the skills to succeed in not only my career but in life.

Now, my son is 26 years old and is the first one in my family to graduate college. He received his B.B.A. in Marketing in 2015 and is now the director of family engagement at a charter school. My daughter is graduating from high school this month and will be attending John Jay College this fall. I am proud to be a role model for my children.

I would like to tell everyone considering OBT that you should always invest in yourself. You can succeed no matter what obstacles you face in life if you just believe in yourself.