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Two sisters start new careers in Baltimore

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Written by Mary Ricchezza, Employment Specialist

Two sisters, Barbara (26) and Sheyla (19), arrived in Baltimore from Cuba in June 2017 with ambitions to learn English, work, study and be independent. Barbara holds a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and Sheyla recently graduated from high school after arriving in the U.S.

Both sisters had big dreams for their future careers upon arriving in Baltimore, but recognized there were many steps to reach these goals. They have actively participated in the IRC in Baltimore’s economic empowerment program over the last two years in pursuit of their goals, from their initial jobs to entry level career positions they are passionate about.

In October 2017, Barbara and Sheyla met with their employment specialist to search for jobs near their home that would accommodate their limited English. They quickly began working at a restaurant as a hostess and dishwasher, which allowed them time to commit to attending English classes. After a year of improving their English and supporting themselves, the sisters decided to take the next step toward their careers and enrolled in IRC’s career development program.

Sheyla (left) next to her employment specialist Mary Ricchezza at the IRC office. Photo: Van Nguyen/IRC

Barbara explained, “My employment specialist assisted me in updating my resume, getting ready for the interview, knowing what to expect, and we did some research about the company and its culture. Thanks to all the support from the IRC I got hired and I’m currently developing my skills as a civil engineer [at a historical renovation construction company] and all that is a product of all the support that I never stopped receiving from this organization…”

Sheyla spoke little to no English when she arrived. After a year working at the restaurant and attending English classes, her English improved so much that she was able to enroll in a fully funded vocational training course with IRC to become a Central Sterile Technician (CST). She completed her classroom work in January 2019 and began a 400-hour clinical externship at the University of Maryland Medical Center. Through her hard work she was encouraged to apply for a full time position with the hospital and started as an official employee this July. Sheyla has dreams of earning her bachelor’s degree in healthcare as she explores opportunities through her current position.

Over the past two years, Barbara and Sheyla consistently looked for ways to improve themselves in order to build futures in Baltimore. Their perseverance demonstrates maturity, motivation, and independence in reaching their goals. Their work ethic is similar to many refugees who come to the United States looking for a chance to give back to their new home and be professional, hardworking members of society.

Employers interested in hiring refugees can contact our economic empowerment team by emailing HireBmoreRefugees [at] Rescue.org

Clients interested in career development services can fill out our appointment request form.