Wijdan and her husband came to the United States as refugees from the war in Iraq. She began working at retail clothing chain TJ Maxx, but was never able to get full-time hours. She learned about CORE through her close-knit community of Iraqi emigres. Wijdan was an outstanding success in her class, thanks to the communications and management skills she had developed as the scheduler for hundreds of employees at an oil refinery in Iraq. After she graduated, Wijdan attended a CORE job fair where she met the hiring manager for global security at Dulles Airport. She interviewed the following week and was offered a passenger verification agent job. The position pays $5 an hour more than her part-time job at TJ Maxx, is full-time and includes full benefits. Wijdan’s family now has healthcare coverage, and she feels personally fulfilled in a job she enjoys.
Rhonda was a manager at Memory Makers Photography, which specializes in photography of children’s sporting events. They were hit hard by the recession in 2006, and Rhonda found herself out of a job. For several years, she worked part-time as a food demonstrator at local grocery stores. She realized that she needed to learn computer skills if she was going to land a job comparable to the one she had to leave in 2006. Rhonda entered Computer CORE’s program and was soon proficient in Word, Excel, Powerpoint and the Internet. After an intensive job search, Rhonda was offered a position with CIBER, a government contractor, in March 2011. The job far exceeds CORE’s salary goals, is full-time and provides full benefits. Rhonda was a featured speaker at the 2011 Spring graduation and encouraged the graduation students not to give up, because they too would find the right job at the right time.
Meskerem got a full-time job with General Nutrition Centers while attending CORE classes during the Spring 2010 training cycle. She had a busy schedule at a GNC retail store and rarely had the opportunity to search for other positions. In May, CORE launched an e-mail newsletter to alert students and alumni to local job openings for which they qualified. Meskerem noticed a link in one of these emails to careerbuilder.com, a job search website that was new to her. She found an opening in the registrar’s office at Northern Virginia Community College and applied for the position. After a series of interviews, Meskerem got the job, which pays better than her previous job at GNC. She is now able to take classes at a discount at NOVA and is on her way to a career that she loves.
Chantay had been laid off from a previous job and was studying to become a registered addictions counselor when she heard about CORE by chance from a woman at the gym. “CORE really enhanced my computer skills,” Chantay says. “I knew nothing about Excel before coming to CORE. Now I use Excel and Word all the time at work.” After graduating from CORE, Chantay completed the coursework to become a registered addictions counselor and got a job as a caseworker at the Washington Halfway House for Women. She’s now studying for further certification in her field. “I applaud CORE for being there and being such a big help to the community in Northern Virginia,” Chantay says. “By helping the individual, you help the family and the community as well.” Chantay is doing the same, and we applaud her for taking the initiative to learn new skills to help others.
Abdul moved to the United States from Morocco in 2000. He worked as a food runner in a restaurant for 10 months before joining CORE. “I was lucky enough to understand that to ameliorate my life in this country I needed to excel at two things,” he says. “First was the language, English, and then computer skills. My roommate recommended Computer CORE.” Abdul has a Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Finance from Morocco, but he’d been studying for 16 years without using computers. “They were very intimidating to me,” he says, “so I wanted to learn everything I could.” At CORE, he took classes in Microsoft Word and Excel and learned how to type. After graduation, he got a job as a teller at Congressional Federal Credit Union, where he is now a marketing research manager. “CORE gave me the self-confidence and skills to grow in my professional life,” he says. “It was a life changing experience.”
Photos of Wijdan and Abdul by Pablo Cocito