Success Stories | Malakai

Malakai is a first-generation college student majoring in Computer Science, determined to overcome any obstacles that appear in his way.

When he first enrolled in Eckerd Connects’ youth program as a high school junior, he was facing anxiety, depression, and a chaotic dynamic in his single-parent home. Despite these challenges, he graduated with an impressive 3.6 GPA. Now a sophomore in college, he continued to demonstrate his determination and resilience. He has begun to dive deeper into his Computer Science degree after completing prerequisite courses with high work ethic and willingness to go above and beyond to achieve his vision.

With his degree, he aspires to merge his passion for storytelling and with the development of video games, creating experiences that captivate and inspire players. He needed an updated computer in order to make this dream come true – and through our Success Awards program and the help of our generous donors, we were able to provide him with the resources he needed.

His passion for video games was ignited when, during the Work Experience (WEX) portion of our program, we paired him with the perfect employer that cracked his shell and helped to lift the weight of anxiety and depression about his future that he was feeling. Although he carried a sense of hesitation and fear of disappointing those he cared about, he found a job in which he loved his work, loved his coworkers, and had dreams for a career in the field. Play ‘n Trade, a locally owned company which sells retro (and new) video game systems, offered him a permanent position once he graduated the program – one he gladly accepted.

“Working in a place I genuinely cared about helped me stay motivated when my job got overwhelming or routine. It was like my anxiety dissipated… It was an odd thing, but more than welcomed,” Malakai told us. “This new experience was something I thought I couldn’t do. And once I took the leap, I flew. I wasn’t expecting it and to this day am incredibly thankful.”

“I can recall an early conversation I had with him last summer after he started working and made mention of a weight being lifted,” his Career Coach told us. “That, to me, is the most fulfilling thing – to know you’ve made a difference. That’s our purpose. And not only did he succeed, our program succeeded.”

The owner of Play ‘n Trade, Jeff, had this to say: “Watching Malakai grow as an employee and just as an individual has been really, really cool and really interesting and enjoyable… He is leaps and bounds above other people his age when it comes to maturity which is why I promoted him before others who had greater tenure… If I ever decide to have kids and they turn out to be half the person Malakai is, I feel like I would’ve won the lottery.” Malakai is proud to hold a management position while he works towards his degree.

His financial difficulties, including cost of living and his mother’s relocation out of state, make it impossible for him to acquire necessary resources (computer and supplies) on his own. A Success Award has been instrumental in supporting Malakai’s collegiate program and his future career dreams. He can now excel academically because he can fully focus on his studies and pursue his dreams without the burden of financial strain or using outdated equipment that was purchased when he was in middle school.

“Malakai is a success,” his Career Coach writes. “He is a young man who will thrive in life.”

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