Justina worked many miscellaneous jobs in her past, such as at a family-owned pizza shop, and as a bartender and server. Adequate jobs to pay the bills, but if she was still with those establishments, she might be out of work right now given the region’s quarantine for the coronavirus pandemic.
But, today, she’s working for Harrisburg University of Science and Technology remotely from home, and is thankful for her newfound tech skills that allow her to do so.
When Justina gave birth to her baby boy at age 19, she was unsure of what her future would hold. This ambitious single mom was certain of one thing, though, she wanted to turn her life around to support her young son. Justina was hard at work, always jumping around from job to job so she could provide. That was until she found JEVS TechServ Scholars, an AmeriCorps Program.
TechServ Scholars is a unique, year-long pre-apprenticeship opportunity for young adults who want to help their community through service and civic engagement while developing technical career skills. Although she always thought of herself as semi tech-savvy, Justina never saw herself as someone who was good with computers or would consider it her forte. But she caught the tech bug and developed a love for it!
While being mentored in IT and STEM skills through TechServ Scholars, Justina’s community service placement at this time last year was in the IT department of a public elementary school. This position was something that really appealed to Justina, as her son was kindergarten-age at this point. “I really had a connection with the kids while I was there, and loved when things really clicked for them,” she said.
Through TechServ, Justina connected with the NuPaths program cofounded by Harrisburg University, which offers multiple career pathways for the growing opportunities in information technology. Not deterred by the traditionally male-dominated field, she studied cyber security in their security operations center analyst training. Upon finishing the TechServ Scholars and NuPaths programs, she was hired by the university’s registrar office as the liaison to IT and then honored with the Pennsylvania Outstanding Pre-Apprentice award this past October. > Read more about Justina’s award.
Her good luck has continued as Harrisburg University recently promoted Justina. She wants to advance her career by going back to school and fulfilling her long-term goal of getting a bachelor’s degree. She always knew she was capable of something bigger and better; Justina just needed the right opportunity to land in her hands.
“JEVS TechServ Scholars is the reason I ended up where I am today,” she said. “They helped me make all of my connections, which ultimately landed me in this job at Harrisburg U.”
Justina also owes her success and drive to her son. “My son is my motivation for everything and without him, I don’t think I would have been able to do this and push myself,” she said. “While attending the programs, I had to balance everything and take care of my him. I was so fortunate enough to have a supportive family to fall back on.”
For young adults who didn’t or couldn’t go to college straight out of high school, or experienced life events that got in the way, Justina is proof that programs offering career exposure to IT and other growing fields can help them change their trajectory.