Anyone looking for inspiration in dealing with life’s setbacks would have been assured of finding it at Henry Street Settlement’s Workforce Development Center this past Thursday evening.
In an uplifting celebration, several clients shared their remarkable success stories. They’re all featured in a new “Wall of Fame” at the workforce center, located at 99 Essex St. In one way or another, all of them have overcome huge personal challenges to land good jobs, some of them right here on the Lower East Side.
Dennis Burgos served time in federal prison, and even afterward, had trouble keeping a job. Burgos enrolled in Henry Street’s Job Essentials Training program, which offers career coaching and training services. The lead employment coordinator, Jay Koo, explained Burgos, “pushed me to the edge” and “changed my whole way of thinking.” The Lower East Side resident landed a job with L+M Development Partners, utilizing construction skills he picked up in prison. Burgos has been working on the big Essex Crossing project for the past two years.
Another client, Ana Lisa Cuevas, relocated from Queens with her three young children and was reeling from a domestic violence situation when she decided to get help. Cuevas found career advice, but also she said, “a lot of emotional support.” She eventually found a job as a customer service agent at Top of the Rock and plans to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology. Referring to the workforce development center team, Cuevas said, “They helped me so much, I felt like Superwoman. I can take care of my home, take care of my kids, have a job. They give you that power to go out and do what you’ve got to do.”
Growing up on the Lower East Side, Jalique Mazyck said, he got caught up with “street crews to survive,” and was dealing drugs. He reluctantly enrolled in Henry Street’s Youth Adult Internship Program, which led to a job with a leading fabric firm. But Mazyck fell back into his old ways, was arrested, and faced a potentially long prison term. Henry Street connected him with legal aid, and helped Mazyck get back on track, personally and professionally. He got a job with Zara, earned a promotion within six months and will soon be trained as a team leader.
The “Wall of Fame” is one of several projects initiated by Henry Street Settlement’s Community Advisory Board. For the first time last year, the organization set aside funds ($5,000) for a participatory budgeting initiative. The advisory board invited different departments to pitch their ideas to enhance their programming. Nine clients are profiled, sharing their comeback stories in a collage hanging on the wall of the Workforce Development Center.
During last week’s unveiling, Lisa Tomanelli, director of employment services, told the honorees, “We’re inspired by what you do every day to get here, to stay here and to keep coming back. You’re inspiring all of the clients who have yet to come into this building.”
David Garza, Henry Street’s executive director, said, “Our mission here is to open doors of opportunity to people who we serve.” The settlement house’s employment programs serve around 2,000 clients each year and place more than 600 people in jobs. “We could not be more proud,” said Garza, “that each of you has invested in yourself, has seized the opportunity when the door opened to make the most of it, and to parlay that into success.”
You can see a digital version of the “Wall of Fame” below. Click here for more information about Henry Street’s employment programs. The 125-year-old settlement house is a founding member of the Lower East Side Employment Network (LESEN), a consortium of eight local workforce development centers. LESEN is holding a Training Fair tonight from 6-8 p.m. at 301 Henry St.
If you’re interested in joining the Community Advisory Board, see this page on Henry Street’s website.