74325344_4By the age of twenty-six, Maria was a single mother raising three children. Without any means of financial support, Maria had relied on public assistance all of her adult life.

“How could I work?” she explained. “I couldn’t do anything. Three kids with no one to look after them if I’m gone, and no way to get anywhere – I don’t have a car.” But things began to change one day in 1999 when Maria made one of her regularly scheduled visits to her WorkFirst case manager, who introduced Maria to Community Jobs.

When Maria met with an employment specialist from the Yakima Valley Farm Workers Clinic, she was surprised how fast a plan to place her in a work setting took shape. “I went to an interview with an employer on Tuesday, and went to work on Monday.”

In the meantime her employment specialist had arranged for childcare while she was working, arranged for her transportation from home to work and taken Maria shopping for work clothes.

Maria was placed at one of the local colleges as a file clerk. “At least I know my ABCs,” she said. Within a matter of weeks Maria had outgrown her file clerk job and taken over other responsibilities in the college office. “Maria has really blossomed here,” remarked her site supervisor.

For Maria, her newfound abilities were a surprise. “I didn’t know I could do this kind of stuff.” The college was so pleased with Maria’s performance they hired her in a “temporary” capacity. ““If Maria would get her GED, she’d meet our hiring requirements and we could hire her in a full time position. Then, if she wanted, she could continue her education and we’d pay,” explained her manager.

While Maria prepared to take the GED exam, her employment specialist arranged funding to pay for her to take computer classes. This would give Maria solid skills that could be used in just about any job. “If knowing how to use a computer helps Maria keep her job at the college, she’ll be one step closer to taking control of her life,” observed her employment specialist.

Maria’s successful experience in Community Jobs helped her to become independent and improved her quality of life. And the program continues to provide opportunities for many ‘hard-to-employ’ individuals—offering pathways to economic security, self-sufficiency and success.

Written by Annette Case; thanks to Ryon Hood of the Farm Workers Clinic in Yakima for providing Maria’s story.

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