Making Hope Happen for Karena

September 28, 2017

Customer Service Training Leads to Confidence and Career

Karena D. has personality. And charisma. And success. And two jobs. And her driver’s license. And now, the world might just really be her oyster.

“It’s never too late, I tell people,” said the beaming mother of two from Northern Liberties. “I think I knew that all along, but Work Ready and Miss Holly (Prendergast, JEVS Placement Counselor) helped me realize that.”

Karena, 36, overcame a rough start in the United States. Abandoned as a child, and with a nonexistent support system, she found herself living in unstable housing, unsafe situations and – at times – making poor decisions. Referred to JEVS Work Ready, which provides employment services to those receiving public assistance, Karena was ready to face her own barriers that were keeping her from self-sufficiency.

“I had been to several other job or career programs,” she remembered. “But last September, I was referred to Work Ready, and something clicked. Even during the SEPTA strike, I said, ‘I still have to get there,’ so I walked the whole way.”

“I tell people that Karena is what this program is all about,” said Prendergast. “Work Ready helps develop time-management skills, build self-confidence, and teach hard and soft skills that can be used in the workplace in an open, comfortable environment. After clients have worked through their barriers, we provide volunteer opportunities and job placement – but we really strive to figure out what someone wants to do, so it’s not just about getting a job, but about finding a fulfilling career match that a participant could build on.”

In the case of Karena, that match was social work. She confided in Prendergast, that her desire was to help others overcome hardship – just as she herself was choosing to overcome her own.

“I knew that if you fall, but are trying, people will see that and will help you recover.”

“Even if I had been at a lowpoint, I knew that if you come in with the right attitude to everyone, that I, you, anyone could do it,” she said.

In Karena’s case, this included obtaining hard skills (computer software, Microsoft Word and Outlook), as well as soft skills in the Work Ready-offered Five 9 Call Center/Customer Service Training Program. The strengths Karena found in herself – asking questions, connecting with different personalities, acknowledging the uniqueness in people – made her want to expand her own world and capture a long-sought goal: a driver’s license.

“Miss Holly had asked, ‘What could make you more marketable? Why do you think you’re not getting hired?’” Karena said. “When we talked about how not having a license or permit could keep you from opportunities, she asked us to call and find places that taught it. We gave her the ideas, we did the research, and we found the best deal – and now I’m so happy, a licensed driver, and showing my own daughters that it’s never too late!”

“The driver’s license was really the icing on the cake,” said Prendergast. “Karena demonstrated such potential in class – everything from the software to the customer service training, to her critical writing and presentation skills.”

Those skills, coupled with an excellent interview and some volunteer opportunities, gained Karena a coveted spot with a local nonprofit as a residential advisor, where she now assists other women who are going through periods of transition in their lives. It’s meaningful employment that leaves her feeling fulfilled each day.

“JEVS got me into the best job ever for my personality,” she laughed. She’s now nine months into the job and is going strong. “I love the women I work with, I’m able to give back, I’m able to drive, my oldest daughter just graduated high school – I feel like everything I’ve been pushing for is finally happening. It feels like a wonderful dream that I know that I am making happen.”

Posted in Client Spotlight JEVS Blog