As the mother of a child with special needs, Khrissy Bartolowits faces unique challenges. When her career went through a transition, coming out on the other side with a salary and good benefits was vital to her family’s survival.
Khrissy had earned a certificate in medical billing and claims several years ago, then worked as a surgical coordinator. But then she chose to leave the workforce to raise her three children. Khrissy’s 21-year-old son is in the U.S. Marine corps, and her daughter, 9, and son, 12, who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy, are still at home.
Three years ago, Khrissy went back to work part-time as a classroom aide for a therapy program for kids with motor disabilities. But she found it challenging to balance work and caring for her son. Attending New Choices, Khrissy found, “was a game-changer.” The program offered her the refresher on computers that she needed. Aptitude tests validated her interest in teaching and social services, which gave her a confidence boost.
Since last May, Khrissy has been working for Maxim Healthcare Services as a classroom aide. She plans to go back to school to study child advocacy and mediation, with a focus on roles within the family court system, to help “kids that have no one as their voice,” she said. “It’s a great feeling to be able to help them.”
In 2013, Selina Krinock had two young children, ages 4 and 8, to support, and had separated from her husband the previous year. After being out of work for almost a year, New Choices provided the resources and inspiration that jump-started her career again.
Selina’s layoff came after over two years as a training specialist and project manager. Even though she held a bachelor’s degree and had received multiple awards for her roles in software conversion projects, training, and other large projects, Selina found herself unemployed and struggling to find new prospects.
New Choices and 3 Cups of Coffee helped Selina rebound life’s challenges. “The bottom line is, you can’t do it yourself,” she said. “You really have to have help, regardless of your situation. You can have all the skills in the world, but if you don’t have anybody caring or advocating for you, that can go overlooked for a long time.”
Today, Selina is working at Gateway Health Plan full-time, and hopes to go further in the training field in the future. She is also about to take her children on their first family vacation in years, to New York City, where they will visit the Statue of Liberty.
As a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps with four years of active service and four in reserve, Leah Kurz already knew the value of hard work, and had spent years in the food service industry earning her stripes. But when her husband was arrested and sent to prison, Leah was left as a single parent of three children and with no income.
Leah had significant work experience. She was a food services compliance manager for seven years and a general manager for two years. During her military service, she had performed inspections and maintained records for over 4,300 Marines, and conducted investigations that exposed theft and fraud.
But her dream was to become a constitutional lawyer. She had finished a four-year degree in political science and had earned a certificate in resolution and conflict management as well.
Leah had been unemployed for 14 months, but once she was matched with her mentor, it only took two coffee meetings before she found her current position at the Veterans’ Leadership Program of Western Pennsylvania, helping veterans re-enter the workforce.
Today, she is preparing to take the LSAT exam and will soon apply to Duquesne’s law program for working adults. She plans to stay in her current position because, she says, “I really love what I do.”
When Dale Sifontes-Pierre-Lavine was laid off in 2014, she was a longtime widow. With a son in college and unemployment that had run out, she needed a new way to make ends meet.
Dale had 20 years of service management experience in the banking industry. She wanted a similar job to ones she’d held in the past: operations manager or customer service manager.
When Dale saw PA Women Work fliers for customer service classes and 3 Cups of Coffee®, she called the office and was invited to sit in on the first New Choices class that very night. The classes refreshed her skills and shifted her perspective, she said.
From there, she joined 3 Cups of Coffee, and was set up with Deborah Guerra of BNY Mellon –and they connected so well that Deborah is now her boss.
In August, Dale started her current position as Vice President/Banking Services Servicing Manager in BNY Mellon’s private banking and wealth management division –an opportunity she says she would not have encountered without Pennsylvania Women Work.
“I think that there’s a learning opportunity in everything, and even though I had that professional experience, it was still something I could learn from,” she said. “I think anybody, whether a beginner or an experienced professional, would definitely benefit from participating.”
The Yvonne Zanos Women of Courage awards are presented in memory of our celebrity host,