As a youngster in her native Honduras, Evelys Alvarado never imagined she would one day be teaching computer classes in the United States. While she had an early interest in technology, she had no idea how to transform those skills for her newly adopted home of the San Francisco Bay Area when she arrived here at age 18.
Things serendipitously changed last summer when Evelys’ husband, Darwin Avila, was availed of the free services at MEDA’s newly implemented Workforce Development Department. He was seeking employment and heard that MEDA staff could be of assistance, at no cost.
While at Plaza Adelante, the Mission neighborhood center, Darwin talked to Technology Training Coordinator Leo Sosa and the duo quickly realized that Evelys could better her skills at MEDA, too.
First up were GED classes. Once that GED had been garnered, Evelys enrolled in MEDA’s Customer Service workshop, followed up with computer classes, where Evelys’ skills from back home were upgraded. Then it was Job Coach Robert Lopez’ turn, as he helped Evelys hone her resume. Evelys was prepped to enter the work world in January of 2014.
As so much in life is timing, MEDA had decided to begin offering free Basic Digital Literacy (BDL) classes as part of the Mission Promise Neighborhood, whereby kids are taken on a successful cradle-to-college-to-career continuum by coaches whose objective it is to ensure that every family succeeds and every student achieves. Classes would be taught to students’ parents at Plaza Adelante, but also at the four schools that are part of the Mission Promise Neighborhood: Cesar Chavez and Bryant elementary schools, Everett Middle School; and John O’Connell High School.
MEDA determined teaching these classes was the perfect next step for Evelys’ career path: she could take her computer knowledge from her homeland, combine those skills with what she had learned at MEDA and start to teach others in the community.
As an added benefit, Evelys also knew that she could serve as a role model, being an immigrant who had learned computer skills at MEDA herself. Most BDL clients are middle-aged immigrants who may have a smartphone, but have no idea how to access the Internet or even set up an email account.
Stated Chris Tugwell, Workforce Manager, “Each day our Workforce team preaches that punctuality, hard work, a positive attitude and education/training will improve your life. So, it is awesome to provide the ultimate reward, a job at MEDA, to a handful of participants each year for demonstrating a commitment to the Workforce team’s values. More importantly, the participants we reward inspire our other Workforce participants. Evelys’ presence makes a difference for everyone involved in the Workforce Development program, and that is special.”
That presence is definitely felt by MEDA clients when the bilingual Evelys now teaches two classes per week, both in Spanish. These BDL workshops meet twice a week for eight weeks.
While Evelys’ sole experience being in front of a class had been as a volunteer at her child’s school, MEDA’s Workforce Development team took a chance, offered encouragement and allowed Evelys to thrive.
Evelys even started teaching an Intermediate Digital Literacy (IDL) class, where Microsoft certifications can be earned.
“Thank you, MEDA staff, for giving me the opportunity to help people. It is so exciting for me to do that right here where I was helped myself,” summed up a grateful Evelys.