Member Spotlight: Just-A-Start Corporation

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Haile and his classmates attend a class in the IT Careers program.

When Haile arrived in Cambridge from Ethiopia 10 years ago with his family, he struggled to balance multiple jobs while pursuing higher education. He had a degree and a background in construction engineering in Ethiopia, but found that the cost and schedule of continuing his education in Boston was prohibitive. “As a parent and working adult, it was difficult to continue my education in college due to overlapping schedules in both my class and work,” Haile explained. To sustain his family, each day he would wake up before dawn and arrive home late every night after commuting to several jobs across the city.

Haile’s hopes for education were dashed. But they were rekindled when his wife shared a flyer for MNN nonprofit member Just-A-Start (JAS) Corporation’s Information Technology Careers program.

The IT Careers Program is a nine-month, tuition-free training program for low- to moderate-income adults looking to enter quality careers with opportunities for upward economic mobility. Through classwork, paid internship placements, and career counseling, students learn the hard and soft skills necessary for success in an IT user support position in an encouraging, supportive environment. In January, JAS launched their inaugural class with Haile and five other men and nine women from seven different countries.

Haile enthusiastically took the opportunity to further his education and develop his career while still being able to balance his work and family obligations. Today, Haile still juggles a busy schedule, attending the IT Careers Program in the morning and afternoon and continuing on to work for a parking company in the evenings, but his goals for his future are finally in sight. After program graduation, he hopes to secure a single steady job and continue his education by taking college courses at night in engineering and IT. “The beginning was hard, but I got through it with hope and hard work,” Haile said. “Now I have a bright future. I’m flexible, and I won’t give up.”

Now celebrating its 50th anniversary, JAS is dedicated to building the housing security and economic stability of low- to moderate-income people in Cambridge and nearby communities. The launch of the IT Careers Program is a step forward for increased access to workforce training programs in different industries, allowing JAS to help even more adults achieve their goals of economic stability and career growth. Modeled after their Biomedical Careers Program, graduates of JAS programs have increased their earnings, accessed new employee benefits, and earned promotions, securing their financial futures and helping them to achieve their long-term goals. This past month, JAS received a $500,000 grant from ECMC Foundation–the largest philanthropic gift it has ever received–to grow its IT Careers Program.

Nonprofits like JAS build a bridge to stable, sustaining careers for thousands of low-income Massachusetts workers every year. The dedication of JAS is seen in every MNN nonprofit member. They are essential players in efforts to build brighter futures and stronger communities.

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