Thursday, January 26, 2012

CalWorks at Work in People's Lives

Monday, January 16 marked the beginning of Career Development’s new government partnership as a Calworks Welfare-to-Work site. Our new staff in the program had been hard at work preparing material and lessons to have a huge impact on our first cohort of clients. As we come to an end with the first group of clients, we are happy to see them walk away with a pathway they are set to follow.

Two women made up this first group of the many to come. Although they were two different stories, they did share a lot in common as low-income single moms with no one encouraging them to achieve something. Then there was a transformation. They have goals and they are going places. One of them aims to be the star of her own business as she takes a business development course through Women’s Initiative. The other is hitting the books as she heads back to school to earn a GED.

Romina and her Career Development staff will continue to support these two women and see how they progress toward their employment goals.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2012 Technology Classes: What's New?

Today is the day. January 17, 2012 students are pouring back into the Chavez Center. Unlike other sessions of classes, this is the first that is really focusing on jobs. What’s new in these classes? What makes them different? Here are 5 reasons why this semester of classes will lead to great things.
  1. They are 6 months long. Meaning that our teachers, staff and case managers have more time to support and help students fulfill their personal and professional goals. This also gives us more time to squeeze in more important lessons.
  2. More English. While computer skills are excellent tools for just about anything – from communicating and researching to applying for jobs and doing homework – English is just as important. School and job applications can be very difficult here in the U.S. without English knowledge. Plus, most of the computers you work with function in English. Overall, it’s just a great skill to have. The best part about the English instruction? It’s integrated into students’ classes ever day, so they don’t have to struggle with scheduling conflicts that might keep them from taking classes.
  3. Job search help in class. Speaking of integration, here is another great idea hatched at the Chavez Center. While students are learning computer skills, they’ll practice them through assignments that are applicable to their job search or to the workplace environment. With internet skills, why not practice searching for job openings? Or those new Microsoft Word skills could really be put to the test in developing a resume. Not only that, but Career Development staff will also regularly visit the classes to provide direction and guidance to students.
  4. Work experience. Sitting in the classroom is great to learn the skills, but to really know it, you have to practice it. This year, for the first time, students in the Career Track classes will have the opportunity to gain work experience by volunteering, interning or job shadowing with the Chavez Center and partner organizations.
  5. New lessons. Our team of Technology Program staff and instructors has been hard at work putting together new lesson plans that are exciting and job-focused. Don’t worry… they’re not too much different. But we hope that you’ll find the changes helpful to yourself, your family and your community.

There you have it. If you’re not convinced by now, let me give you one more reason. We care. At the Chavez Center, we want each and every one of our students to be successful and achieve their potential. We aim to stay in contact with each of our students and make sure that they are on the right track and have the right resources to get where they need to go.

We’ll let you know how it all goes. In the meantime, think about whether you or someone you know might be interested in these classes. Visit our technology program’s webpage to find out more.
Do you have input about our classes and how they’re going? Send an e-mail our way, and we’ll be happy to hear your thoughts.

Friday, January 13, 2012

The gifts we give, the gifts we receive

Thank you to everyone who has given a gift this holiday season. We have seen gifts of it be friendship, hygiene kits, computers or money abound. The Chavez Center is privileged to be a part of your giving. Here’s your recap on all of the giving that you did for our community through the Chavez Center this holiday season…

On December 19 you came to the Chavez Center to wrap and fill boxes for the Adopt a Family: Tidings of Technology. With friends and family you managed to cover the oddest shaped boxes with festive wrapping paper. You also worked out a great loading system, filling the boxes with a computer, mouse, monitor, cables, and keyboard – everything a grateful family needed to get setup on their new computer.

Before we could get together for wrapping, we had to get the computers from somewhere. Turns out a lot of organizations, people and businesses had a lot to pass on. So here’s a big shout out to each of you! City of Concord provided tons of computers for us to repair and upgrade. A student in our computer repair course put us in contact with CA Transplant Donor Network stepped in and gave some nice equipment and parts (including much needed monitors!) to continue the endeavor. And a church member had her company donate monitors (yay!) to help the cause as well.

This next story requires a little backstory. JustFaith is a group from St. Agnes that has been volunteering with the Chavez Center for more than a year. Each month they bring an early morning breakfast to the day laborers, who believe it or not get to the center around 6:00am. Over their time with us, JustFaith has constantly found more ways to give. This year they brought hygiene kits for the day labor members – just a little extra something for the holidays that makes a big difference in our clients’ self-confidence and motivation.

One of our favorite holiday stories this year comes from our clients. While Chavez Center staff, volunteers, donors and supports have given so much, this holiday season the members gave us a precious gift. As part of the day labor program, members commit to learning specialized skills, which are usually related to manual labor. In a moment of inspiration our day labor members decided to begin a unique training opportunity. Over the course of two days the workers transformed a pile of wood into a 15-foot Christmas tree, complete with star, lights and ornaments. Out for everyone to see, this was the day laborers expression of the Christmas spirit as they gave what they could.

Thank you all – clients and community alike – for all of the ways that make the holidays such a blessing at the Chavez Center.

Families Adopted for the Holidays

On December 21st, more than 33 community members took home a computer. What made this special was not just the community effort to provide these computers, but also that none of these families had a functioning computer.

Around the holidays, Adopt a Family projects abound as everyone gets in the giving spirit. This year the Chavez Center put its own twist on the common project with Adopt a Family: Tidings of Technology. We received more than 100 applications from families who did not have a working computer at home. Then community members like you donated to the cause to enable us to have computers refurbished through Prometech Services. Thanks to your donations, 33 families’ holidays became that much more special.
The families that came to pick up their computers were overwhelmed with gratitude. Through this gift, they can become connected to an inexhaustible realm of resources while their children will grow up connected to technology.  Here is a roundup of some quotes and pictures from the families:

“I am Analberta. I thank you for donating this computer. Thanks to this gift I am going to have a better future.” – Analberta Trujillo

“I would like to say hello with respect and admiration and for the dream of a computer. Thank you for thinking of us here at the center. From the bottom of my heart.” – Gelasio Ramirez

“Thank you very much from what you are doing for the people that need computers. God bless you.” – Lerina Cruz

“Thank you for giving me the opportunity of receiving this computer. Now I can practice what I have learned at the center.” –Gilma Rodriguez

Monday, January 9, 2012

Welcoming the New Career Development Team

Employment is our focus at the Chavez Center, and we’re happy to see how we have launched not only our clients’ careers, but also those of some of our staff. On December 30 we bid a final farewell to our Career Development Facilitator, Tess, as she jumped into a new position with an immigration law firm based in San Jose. Just as she has helped so many achieve their career goals; she too now has the opportunity to pursue her own.

Romina planning out a new year of services.
To kick of 2012, please welcome our new Career Development team as they also jump into new positions.  Romina Gonzalez and Janeth Cortez will be the new go-to people for all things Career Development. Both have an insatiable desire to work with and serve our community as they bring fresh perspectives to connecting people to employment.

Romina joins the teams as the Career Development Program Manager. She was born here in the Bay Area, and spent much of her childhood in Mexico. When she returned to the United States, she was set on making a better life for herself, which she has done. As an insurance agent of more than 7 years working with Concord’s Latino community, Romina quickly built strong, trusting relationships with people. Little by little she unearthed her passion to help others as she found herself giving advice for self-growth, civil responsibility and support. With her faith in following this passion, Romina was led to the Michael Chavez Center. Jumping into this complex job has been a whirlwind that Romina has embraced. We look forward to all of the ways that she will grow Career Development services to our community.

Alongside Romina, Janeth will also be joining the Chavez Center Career Development staff. As a volunteer, Janeth filled the role of case manager and assistant in the program. In this new year, she will continue with this work as she takes on more responsibility running the program with Romina. Janeth is originally from Mexico and came to California with her family about eleven years ago as they searched for a better life. She is making a life for herself as she studies at Diablo Valley College and aims to work in the social services field. Janeth has a passion for helping others just as others helped her when she first came to this country.

We wish a warm welcome to Romina and Janeth. And here’s your first piece of advice for your own self-growth for our new team: We all were born with same parts of a brain, but, what makes the difference for some people to success and others not? Simple… Passion.