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Vivinasviyanty Polanco

Adapted from The New York Times on October 29, 2019

Vivinasviyanty Polanco was just 17 when her mother died of a heart attack. Her father died five years later, when she was in college. After she arrived in Queens, she found work as a babysitter. Despite having a bachelor’s degree in economics, Ms. Polanco said, she lacked the confidence to apply for office jobs. In 2014, she met Erwin Polanco, 45. They married a year later and moved to Riverdale in the Bronx. 

Ms. Polanco stopped working when she became pregnant with their daughter, Kirana, who was born in September of 2016. As Kirana’s third birthday approached, Ms. Polanco realized she was unfulfilled. She also decided she was ready and eager to help her husband pay the bills. She recalled telling him: “I want to work so I can have a career and I can have another future. Not only for me, but for my family.”

Last fall, Ms. Polanco enrolled at Grace Institute, a free job training program for women in Lower Manhattan, after a friend told her about it. The Polancos were driving to her first appointment when Kirana became ill. Already late and stuck in traffic, they pulled to the side of the Henry Hudson Parkway to comfort their daughter.

Frazzled and overwhelmed, Ms. Polanco announced that she wanted to give up and go home, saying she was ready to abandon the classes. But she said her husband would hear none of it.

“We always push each other,” Ms. Polanco said. “We’re always together for everything.”

The cost of subway fare was a drain on the family’s finances. The Community Service Society, a community partner of Grace Institute and one of the seven organizations supported by The New York Times Neediest Cases Fund, gave Ms. Polanco two $121 unlimited monthly MetroCards to get to and from class and to pick up Kirana from daycare.

In December, Ms. Polanco celebrated two milestones: She was granted permanent residency in the United States and she graduated from Grace Institute. “I got the knowledge and skills, and increased my confidence,” she said.

In May, Ms. Polanco was hired as a teller at a bank branch near Lincoln Center, working 30 hours a week. The job came with health insurance, and she added her husband and daughter to her plan as dependents. Ms. Polanco enjoys being a working mother and said she plans to visit Indonesia with her family next summer. It will be her first trip back since she left 12 years ago.

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