The YMCA prepared me to succeed in a professional career.
When I came to the United States from Guatemala, I barely spoke a word of English. Thanks to finding the YMCA of Greater Boston’s International Learning Center (ILC), I learned English quickly through their intensive language classes. Shortly after starting my classes, I found a job as a cashier. For the next two years, I worked every morning and took language classes five nights a week.
However, my main goal through it all was to go to college. Before I left Guatemala, I was on track to go to medical school. College here is very expensive, so I left the Y briefly to work a second job cleaning offices in the evenings. I worked 65 hours a week to save money, but it wasn’t enough. I knew this wasn’t the work that God created me for. I wanted to do more for myself and for my community. That’s when I went back to the YMCA.
Q: What first brought you to the YMCA?
A: When I came to this country, I spoke such little English that I couldn’t even order a cup of coffee! I heard about the YMCA’s language classes and started going to their ILC program five days a week for two full years. It was difficult, especially in the beginning, because the classes are full immersion and all in English.
Q: Your English is perfect now. What did you do when you graduated from the program?
A: After I graduated from the Y’s ILC Program, I started working to help support my family and to pay for community college. At one point, I was working as a cashier in the morning, going to classes in the afternoon, and cleaning offices at night. I would sleep four or five hours, then do it all over again…every day. I was working hard to put food on the table, but it wasn’t feeding my soul. That’s when I came back to the YMCA.
Q: Did you have a vision for your life? How did the Y help you achieve that?
A: I planned on going to medical school after I completed high school in my country. I wanted to have a career where I could help humanity. As a participant in the Y’s adult education programs, I learned that the Y also offered a program called Training, Inc. I was lucky to attend for free through a scholarship. The career program taught me how to succeed in a professional career. They had three different tracks and I chose healthcare.
Q: Are you working in that field now?
A: At Training, Inc., our mentors and instructors taught us important skills for professional work in this country, including how to interview and the importance of being punctual. These skills helped me land an interview and a job at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.
Q: How is your life different now than it was before you came to the YMCA?
A: Today, I work full time in a professional career. I was just accepted to Boston College, and I’m pursuing my degree. I am also engaged to be married! And I still come to the Y to work out at the gym.
Q: Do you feel the Y supported the good in you?
A: Definitely. The Y not only supported the good in me, they helped me change my life for good. I’m doing important, professional work that makes a difference. I have a purposeful, fulfilling life. I have hope that I’m going to accomplish even greater things in the future.