ATLANTA - Twenty-one-year-old Jamal Roberson is on a mission, a mission to find a job.
"I'm trying to upgrade myself," says Jamal. "I want to wake up and say: "I'm about to go to work" instead of, "dang, I got to go to work."
So he's making the rounds, with almost 2,600 other young people at the Atlanta Opportunity Fair. The fair is aimed at youth who aren't in school and are unemployed. It provides help with resumes, on the spot interviews and job offers, and a follow-up mentorship program. Sheri Schultz is the president and co-founder of the Schultz Family Foundation, which supports the fair.
"You can't win or lose if you don't try in the game," says Sheri. " And that's what we say to these young people is get started somewhere."
Jamal's already a few steps ahead of the game. He's in college, and he's got a mentor guiding him through the ropes, but he's been through some rough times. While in tenth grade his dad died, and then the family lost everything.
"We ended up being homeless and what not," says Jamal. "I had to work different odd jobs, work as a dishwasher and get paid under the table, get stipends and what not, you know, just to make sure we ate."
And then things at school crumbled. He got in trouble and was kicked out. Suspended for a year, and literally living on the streets, Jamal found strength in his faith.
"I've been in some situations where I can't explain, I just gotta be like hey that was God, that's what brought me through that, God, " says Jamal.
He returned to school and graduated. He was even accepted at the University of West Georgia but turned ti down to look after his mom and sister. Still homeless, and without transportation, he survived on odd jobs. Eventually, he reached out to WorkSource Atlanta, a career counseling, and resource center. With their support, he's now in college studying accounting and looking for a better work.
"Jamal is a phenomenal young man," says WorkSource mentor Emmanuel Williams. "Just the positivity that he has and the focus he has. He's a very, very bright kid, and he knows what he wants, he knows what he's looking for, and he's open to learn."
Seems the recruiters picked up on that, and in no time Jamal had a job interview and offer from Starbucks. And he's hoping this new job will help him afford a place his family can call home.
"I feel good, " says Jamal. "You know more confident than I felt before. I feel great."