“My name is James. I am Colombian and I immigrated to the United States with zero knowledge in computer science. I worked at Pizza Hut as a delivery driver and made a delivery to Onward House at 600 N. Leavitt St. where I learned that this wonderful place would change my life forever.
I had my first contact with a computer from Professor Mauricio Blanco. Mauricio taught me how to use the computer mouse, basic internet, and Microsoft Office. The knowledge that I acquired from then on was very important to apply for and enter university.
In 2011 I obtained a degree in AAS-CIS-Computer Hardware Information Systems. As thanks to Onward House, I volunteered in their computer classes, as I have also been a teacher in that area. I now work at the University of San Agustín in the area of Technical Support of Financial Support. My job is to keep the institution up-to-date with federal and state programs. Now I also have my BS-CIS Network Systems Administrator degree. My next project is to start the Master’s degree in Database Security in the spring of 2020. From the first day at Onward House, I set goals and today I can say they have been fulfilled.
I am very grateful to my teacher and friend Mauricio, Mr. Mario Garcia, and all the people there who help so much.
The original spirit of Onward’s mission to provide immigrants with the tools and support they need to find a foothold in the United States continues on through our comprehensive adult education services. Through our weekly citizenship classes, immigrants seeking naturalization can find support as they weave their way through what can be a long and costly process.
It took Efrain nearly 20 years to become a US Citizen. He’d immigrated to the US from Mexico in 1979 and in 2000 began his work to attain citizenship. However, it was challenging to find a citizenship program that fit his busy schedule of working and taking care of his family. Efrain found himself continuously reenrolling and paying tuition, and yet still unprepared for the test.
“There are so few places to receive quality instruction like this.”
In 2017, Efrain renewed his mission to become a citizen of the country where he’d spent the majority of his adult life. Efrain began taking citizenship classes at Onward House with Mr. Tapia. The class structure allowed him the freedom to miss a class and still catch up without paying fees. Efrain found that Mr. Tapia also provided additional guidance and tips that made the difference, including: visiting the police station for records, interview attire, and additional documents to bring to support his application. As a bonus, students who took the test always returned to class to “pay it forward” and share their test experience.
Efrain began to volunteer at Onward’s food pantry as a way to give back to the organization for providing free Citizenship classes, which help approximately 30 individuals earn their citizenship each year.
Onward’s citizenship classes are funded by donations, to them, Efrain’s message is, “thank you so much for the support. There are so few places to receive quality instruction like this.”
Efrain passed his citizenship test in July 2018. When asked how it felt he replied, “I’m still learning, but I will feel like a citizen after the ceremony.” Once Efrain formally pledges his Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America, Efrain plans to take ESL classes at Onward to improve his English. He plans to continue to volunteer at the food pantry.
When Rocio first started her business selling decorative wreaths, she set up an online shop without knowing much about eCommerce. She had heard it was so easy that everything took care of itself.
While she was able to produce high-quality wreaths, her sales were far below what she expected. After a year of slow sales, a friend gave her a flyer for Onward’s eCommerce classes. To Rocio, it felt like a sign.
“After my first day, I wanted to run home and fix everything.”
From her very first class, Rocio said, “I couldn’t believe it. After my first day, I wanted to run home and fix everything about my online store.” She learned that there were many facets of running and promoting an online business. When Rocio first started, she didn’t know about the importance of search optimization to online stores. Once she improved her SEO and search engine ratings, her business began to grow. “Now more people kind find my store than ever before,” she smiled.
Onward’s eCommerce curriculum covers a variety of topics, including the best practices for online marketing, design tips and tools for promotion, search engine optimization, and how to use finance software to track business sales and expenses.
One-on-one assistance from the eCommerce instructor helped Rocio completely rebuild her shop using the techniques she had learned in class. Soon she was selling so many wreaths she had to scale up her production – increasing sales by 700%!
Rocio runs Lala’s Wreath Boutique with the help of her daughter, you can find them on both Facebook and Etsy.
The School Age program provides additional support to address at-risk elementary students’ needs. After school and over summer and winter break, students receive individualized academic and social-emotional support and are exposed to new experiences through activities and field trips. They are also able to build strong bonds with their peers.
After 8 years of working for a large tax preparation service, Rosalina was ready to start her own accounting business. But as a new entrepreneur needing startup materials, professional marketing services were out of budget.