Ten years ago, Ebony L. Dendy, a Veteran and single mom of a three-year-old son, moved to Pittsburgh to be closer to her family. Shortly after, Ebony was laid off.
“I was really scared. I had never been laid off before. I was in a really bad place. I felt worthless,” she remembered.
Ebony was introduced to Pennsylvania Women Work and participated in the organization’s in-person, ten-session New Choices program in 2010. “At first I didn’t want to go, but I am so glad I did,” Ebony explained.
After participating in both New Choices and Customer Service, Ebony received assistance to go back to school. She attended Point Park University where she completed her Masters in Business. This set her life on a fast track to success for the next ten years. She was recognized for her achievements as a Pennsylvania Women Work Woman of Courage at our Circle of Hope Awards Dinner in 2017.
For the last several years, Ebony worked as a contracted technical project manager and business analyst. While she enjoys her work, Ebony wanted to move into a full-time position to move her career forward and have more stability. She began her search at the beginning of 2020, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. She had been on several second round interviews but had not yet landed a job offer.
“For me, that was a big red flag. I needed to fix something. After the pandemic began, I took it as a reset all the way around. I was determined to dig deep and see where my gaps were,” Ebony said.
Ebony saw Pennsylvania Women Work was now offering New Choices virtually, so she decided to sign up to see if the organization might be able to help her on her path to success once again.
“Even the second time through, I learned so much. My LinkedIn wasn’t updated; I learned how important that was. They helped me with my resume and showed me I was leaving out some key points. I should be highlighting the fact that I’m an ARMY Veteran, and I wasn’t doing that before,” Ebony explained.
And taking both Pennsylvania Women Work’s in-person and online version of New Choices, Ebony is able to offer a perspective on the effectiveness of each method. “I always sang the program’s praises then and I still would do so now. This class has built up confidence and it has also made me more aware of myself. I was in the first virtual class, and if the instructor hadn’t said it, I would have thought they had been doing it all along,” Ebony said.
Now, Ebony has a revised resume and a new sense of confidence going back into her job search. She’s learned new strategies for applying for jobs in a digital age, such as updating her LinkedIn, applying and interviewing for jobs virtually, and using key words to search for available positions.
She is moving forward with Pennsylvania Women Work’s 3 Cups of Coffee program. She’s excited to get started with her virtual mentor and see where her job search takes her next.
At five years old, Habibo Sekondo moved with her family from Kenya to the Northview Heights area in Pittsburgh. Even though she was quite young, she recalls the transition being difficult for her family.
“My parents did not speak English and did not understand America’s culture,” Habibo remembered. “School was very different, and I had to adjust. It took some time for me to learn English. As I got older, there were new obstacles, and I set new goals to achieve as I went.”
After graduating high school, Habibo decided to move away from Pittsburgh. She lived in Texas and Kentucky, where she worked difficult jobs in warehouses. After giving birth to a second child, Habibo moved back to the Northview Heights area to be near family and start working on career goals for herself.
“I knew I could do better for myself. I wanted to become a nurse and help people, but I had to start somewhere. I got a job at Burlington Coat Factory,” Habibo explained. “After I’d been there for a while, I was connected with Kristen Tsapis [from Pennsylvania Women Work] and she told me about a CNA training I could do. I knew I had to go for it.”
Habibo quit her job at Burlington, and Kristen helped her navigate the application process for a CNA program at Vincentian. Throughout the training, Kristen checked in on Habibo and helped her prepare for her final test, which she passed. Habibo is now a CNA and was hired at Vincentian shortly after completing the program.
“I am making more money now and am one step closer to my goals,” Habibo said.
Aside from the assistance Habibo received from Kristen in the Northview Heights, Pennsylvania Women Work also provided Habibo support during the holidays by providing her two small children with gifts, along with offering her assistance with transportation through our bus pass program.
To learn more about the work we are doing in the Northview Heights, contact Susan Showalter-Bucher at email@example.com.
For four years, Yaritza Ramos was a stay-at-home mom and dedicated volunteer. As much as she enjoyed this stage in her life, she wanted to enter the workforce – but she wasn’t sure where to start.
“I didn’t know the first thing about writing a resume or how to interview for a job,” she confessed.
She saw an ad for New Choices and learned there was a class starting the next week. Yaritza’s English was limited, but the program staff assured her they would work through it together. “Taking the New Choices class was definitely a challenge and big step for me,” Yaritza explained.
With each week, Yaritza’s English got a little stronger, and she learned critical workforce skills. “I created a resume and cover letter. We were taught interviewing skills, how to answer questions, how to dress, what to expect, and we practiced,” she said.
On top of that, Yaritza learned budgeting strategies and how to better organize her finances.
Soon after graduating, with help from the New Choices team, Yaritza accepted a job at First Citizens Community Bank as a teller and recently became a home owner. “I have been at my job for more than six months now. I love my new career,” she said.