When Michelle was 22 years old, she was a Personal Care Aide helping a client in their home with their health needs. It’s an emotionally and physically taxing job that didn’t pay well. Michelle was also working through a mental health challenge and found herself looking for a new career that would provide her more piece of mind and make use of her computer and typing skills.
In the fall of 2019 she attended a career fair where she learned about Grace Institute. She was excited that the program catered to women ages 18 to 64 years old. As a young adult, she found that many programs targeting her demographic felt unprofessional and juvenile. She also hoped the older women would help to nurture the younger women’s skillsets– something she found to be true after joining our Administrative Professionals Program in January 2020.
In class Michelle learned soft skills she hadn’t used as a Personal Care Aide, such as how to write a professional email, how to sell yourself in an interview, and how to handle sensitive and private information in a professional setting. She also learned computer skills like how to mail merge and use excel. When Michelle started the program she thought she would find a job as a receptionist after graduation, but once enrolled, she learned about so many other roles that were open to her with her new skills.
Michelle was set to graduate in early April, but COVID forced Grace Institute’s internship sites to close down and her last week of classroom programming was condensed before the State’s March 16th closure took effect.
“I graduated in March and COVID really stopped me in my tracks…. The pandemic was overwhelming and hard to deal with. From March to June I was really struggling with my mental health. I attended a few virtual Monday Morning Meetings at Grace Institute [for job search support], but I lost hope. But then I saw my classmates getting jobs where I wanted to work, like Harlem Children’s Zone, and I started to think maybe getting a job was possible.”
The pandemic has been hard for everyone and state-wide closures made those searching for jobs feel hopeless. In May, however, Michelle saw a job posting as a Youth Advocate at You Gotta Believe, an organization that specializes in finding permanent families for young adults, teens, and pre-teens in foster care. Michelle experienced foster care growing up and knew this was a job she would be passionate about. She went through three rounds of interviewing virtually and in-person and was hired at the end of July.
“I like my job as a Youth Advocate a lot because it’s really personal to me. I work with young boys 10 to 22 years old to help them stay connected with their family. I also help organize adoption events and support parenting classes. I work with the boys to help them express their feelings and support them through activities.”
In Michelle’s current job she uses the hard and soft skills she learned at Grace, and she also found a way to connect her own history with wellness and foster care to help others who really need her. Grace Institute is so proud of all Michelle has accomplished!
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