The following speech was delivered by “Nina,” a Sanctuary for Families client, at the Winter 2019 Economic Empowerment Program graduation. Of the 52 graduates in this year’s fall class, four women were selected by class vote to share their stories with the audience.
Here’s “Nina’s” story:
Four months ago, if you were to ask me about myself, I’d be at a loss for words. “So, what’s new?”, “What have you been up to?”, “What are you doing with yourself these days?”. I would try my best to avoid those questions, but no matter who I ran into, they would come up. And so, I began to isolate myself from the world and from the people I loved most. I couldn’t face my parents, who I watched work tirelessly my entire life, or my grandmother who thrived in the Human Resources field for over twenty years and retired a wealthy woman owning several properties and stocks. I couldn’t even bring myself to visit my grandfather, my wonderful grandfather who was a retired cop and navy veteran. I couldn’t stomach the image of that disappointing look in his eyes while sitting on his couch. I felt like I had failed my parents, tarnished my family’s legacy and I had failed myself. To make matters worse, I eventually convinced myself that this was “okay.”
The more I isolated myself, the more content I became with my situation. Quite often, I would fall into a depression about the negative turn my life had taken but talk myself out of it. “Who needs a degree?” I would say. I vowed that I’d never go back to school, that it wasn’t my thing. I had no idea where I was going, yet I was convinced that some opportunity would fall into my lap when the time was right. I totally lost sight of who I was, but although I had disappeared on my loved ones for some years, I never lost sight of who they were. If I turned out to be a failure, I’d probably be the first in the family to do so. I knew I had huge shoes to fill. The question was, how?
Who knew that the Economic Empowerment Program was that “something” that was going to fall into my lap? The Career Readiness Workshop phase of the program only lasted about two weeks, but in that short time, my vocabulary grew tremendously. I scored a 100 on the first EEP test I ever took. I felt like this was clear proof that I did have what it takes to succeed in New York City’s competitive economy. I met women from all walks of life who were beautiful both inside and out. They were women of different races, ethnicities and backgrounds, from all over the world. We experienced similar yet different struggles in life; however, we all shared one thing in common: the need to succeed. These beautiful women along with the EEP staff are who helped motivate me and carried me through this program. I already had the work ethic from my family’s example, and now I had a network of ladies that I could depend on. More importantly, they were depending on me.
During the Office Operations Workshop (OOW) phase of the program, I learned something new about myself every single day. I came into OOW with very basic computer skills, poor mathematic skills and no certifications. OOW began October 4th and by December 3rd I was already certified in Microsoft Word and Excel, thanks to my Microsoft Office Specialist instructor Ms. Lee, who I have to say is phenomenal. While math had always been my least favorite subject, I managed to get a perfect score on math test 1 on the TABE and was one and was one answer away from a perfect score on test two. I feel ready to ace an interview now that I have taken interview prep. Any relationship I’ve built, every conversation I’ve had, and anyone I’ve had the pleasure of meeting has been instrumental in my success here at EEP. The dedication and effort that was put into my success by the instructors was something that I’ve never experienced before, and it was quite inspiring.
By the time I was accepted into a supplemental training in Electronic Health Records the Borough of Manhattan Community College, my confidence had reached levels I thought were unattainable for a person like me. Surely, this was due to so many years of the self-doubt and the lack of positive support I experienced prior to EEP. I along with twelve of my colleagues, were challenged to take on the responsibility of completing the Office Operations Workshop and Electronic Health Records (EHR) course at an offsite location and find the time to prepare for the remainder of the certifications we needed in Microsoft Office Specialist. I walked into my EHR class with two certifications under my belt and an additional five was my personal expectation. It was going to be hard, but it definitely wasn’t unattainable! The course was very difficult and required some intense study sessions. I earned a score of 96% on the midterm exam and the results of my labor just made me all the more determined.
I’m really looking forward to a career in Health Administration where I will have countless opportunities to touch the lives of people and really make a difference by leaving a positive impression on everyone I make contact with. Am I prepared? Well, with so many certifications, an expanded vocabulary, and the additional knowledge and skills I’ve acquired, I’d have to say that I’m more than prepared. So, I guess it is safe to say that I proved all my detractors wrong! I’m more than capable and I AM good enough. I finally believe those words when I say them. I’m on my way to places I thought I’d never go. I even managed to prove myself wrong. In my past life, I was convinced that I had lost my way, but in truth, I just needed to get myself on track – to brush up on my skills so I could be reminded of who I’ve always been. Thank you EEP for reminding me. Thanks for helping me find myself again. Thanks for all your guidance and most of all thank you for believing in me. This opportunity has truly been life changing.