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.
When the Kittanning Foodland closed in September of 2014, it had a ripple effect throughout the community. For longtime employees like Cindy Atherton, however, the aftershock of the unexpected event changed their world forever. “I worked at Foodland for 20 years and 1 day. It was a shock. I was 58 years old, and I didn’t know where I was going to go.”
Like many displaced workers, Cindy, along with fellow Foodland co-workers KellyAnn Kostek and Dee Wilson, turned to Lenape Tech’s New Choices program. And that decision has made all the difference in their futures.
A Templeton native and 1976 Lenape Tech Cosmetology graduate, Cindy started a family at a young age before eventually matriculating into the workforce, where she held several different jobs until she landed a full-time position at the Kittanning Foodland in fall 1994. She started as a deli worker and moved up the ranks to assume customer, clerical, and managerial duties. Faced with having to start over again, she needed everything from an updated resume to a renewed sense of purpose. She got it from Lenape Adult Education coordinator Lisa Brochetti and New Choices.
“New Choices showed me that I could do it. It gave me confidence – which was something I did not have at all,” admits Cindy. She says that the support of the group, coupled with what she describes as “little things” like the reflective journal writing exercises, helped instill a renewed sense of self-esteem. Part of Cindy’s previous work experience involved serving as a caregiver to senior populations and members of her own family, roles she maintained on a part-time basis during her tenure at Foodland. Even before the store announced it would close, Cindy had made up her mind to follow her heart by enrolling in a Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) program at Lenape Tech. She recently completed her CNA certifications and is now working in a full-time position as a residential caregiver for Lifesteps in West Kittanning. “This is something that I wanted to do for a long time,” says Cindy, who adds that her long-term goal is to someday work as a nurse in a Veterans Hospital.
For KellyAnn Kostek of Ford City, contemplating life after Foodland was also a frightening proposition initially. “Now, I am thinking, ‘What am I going to do?’ I couldn’t go back to minimum wage,” says Kelly. A 1996 Ford City graduate, she landed the job at Foodland right out of high school and worked there for 18 years in various roles including cashier, customer service, health & beauty consultant, and back office manager.
Faced the possibility of having to leave the area to move in with her brother in Florida, KellyAnn was desperate, but her life experience taught her that she needed to look for a new career rather just another job. She consulted the adult education information section in Lenape Connections, and that’s where she discovered the New Choices program. “I was kind of nervous and scared all at the same time,” she says.
She says that New Choices helped immensely with her interviewing and writing skills. The career exploration component helped her confirm an interest in becoming a pharmacy technician. “I always wondered what it would be like to have that kind of career, but I put it on the backburner, not thinking that it would be something I would need to do, or even could do.”
KellyAnn successfully completed the CNA program at Lenape Tech and has since gone on to take a Pharm Tech certification exam. She now works at Rite Aid Pharmacy.
For Dee Wilson of Kittanning, who began at Foodland in 1988, being unexpectedly cast back into the job market after a quarter century at one company was a daunting challenge. “It is an all new world,” she says. The resume-building component of the program was step one, but moreover, New Choices restored what she describes as her “self worth” by helping her to define and understand her skill-sets and become more comfortable with the interview process. In February, her efforts paid off as Dee landed a full-time position in the budgeting/accounting department of Community Action’s CCIS division.
Lenape Tech’s New Choices program helps people rediscover themselves, so they can reinvent their future. For more information on what it can do for you, please call (724) 763-5916 today!
In January of 2011, Kate Kelly was unexpectedly let go from her position in customer service and office management after working for her employer for nearly ten years.
Kate was overwhelmed by the thought of interviewing, resume writing and the job search process. She found the New Choices Career Development Program through the Delaware County Community College website. She felt that the program would help her update her skills in both career and personal development.
Once in class Kate quickly realized that she wasn’t alone in her feelings and that her classmates were going through similar career and life transitions. She remembers the support and encouragement that they provided for one another throughout the program.
Kate’s goal was to learn more about herself and determine what else she could do in the working world. Through the exercises, assessments, and evaluations, Kate decided that returning to college was her next step.
Following graduation, Kate enrolled in an Associate’s degree program at Delaware County Community College and graduated in May 2014 with two degrees—Business Management and Communications. She is currently employed and credits the New Choices program with helping her to reach her goals.