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Why New York Needs Work Programs that Push Back Against Youth Unemployment

When I left my home in the Bronx to pursue an education in Florida it was supposed to be a turning point; one where I took the right path, seamlessly shifting from high school to college and then to medical school. But the unexpected took root, and I became pregnant with my son. Soon, my husband, newborn, and I returned to New York after being unable to sustain ourselves in Florida. Unemployment, coupled with the new responsibility of keeping my child healthy, was overwhelming and I needed a drastic change to get back on track.

Fortunately, there are workforce programs in New York that are prepared for needs and experiences like mine, and that work to alleviate the experience youth unemployment in our state. In New York City, 18 percent of young people 16 to 24 years old are unemployed. As a part of that population, I searched for opportunities to gain skills that helped me transition into the workforce. In my efforts to move forward, a friend introduced me to Phipps Neighborhoods’ Career Network: Healthcare (CNH), a highly successful, local program that specializes in people like me, who were derailed by the unexpected.

Before I was connected with CNH, my small family struggled. We lived with my in-laws, where I started all over again. I depended on my husband’s income of $400 per week, which was barely enough for us to get by. Between the baby’s needs, food, and keeping the lights on, we had no space for upward mobility. I felt stuck, but I knew I couldn’t stay in a state of hopelessness. I reached out to my limited professional network, calling and speaking with whomever I could about any new opportunities that would lead me to my original plan.

Finally, I got there. I have a friend who graduated from CNH and encouraged me to just try it. She told me how the Career Network: Healthcare program prepares young people like myself for careers in the health care field through training and live working experience with Phipps Neighborhoods’ partners Montefiore Health System and Hostos Community College. I was skeptical. The opportunity felt like a complete shot in the dark, so you can imagine my shock when I found my application was selected. The rigorous program was 13 weeks long; we spent nine weeks training and the remaining four weeks working in a hospital alongside professionals. I learned skills that were and were not offered in traditional colleges. We took courses in anatomy and physiology, but the life coaching set this program apart from anything I had experienced before. Each student in the program came from some variation of my own background: ambitious, but offset by an unexpected event, and facing a lack of workforce opportunities and skills training that kept them in a state of poverty. Many of us were frustrated with the choices we made and the dead-ends we were experiencing in our careers, and we all received the support we needed to turn our lives around through CNH.

And then, another unexpected event happened: the hospital wanted to keep me for a full-time $40,000-a-year job with great benefits. Now, I’m not only employed, I’m also enrolled to start nursing school in the Spring of 2018. I want New York’s leaders to see how workforce programs that build skills and focus on marginalized and under-resourced communities like my own are needed in this city. CNH recognized my ambition, and fed it.

I cannot state enough the importance of programs like Phipps Neighborhoods Career Network: Healthcare. It has helped me and so many others to grow and rise above poverty. CNH has given us the chance to become someone ready to face the daily struggles that the world and a workplace can throw at us. Thanks to the Phipps Neighborhood Career Network: Healthcare program, I am where I am today!


Jamillet Rodriguez is a Bronx native and a graduate of the Phipps Neighborhoods’ Career Network: Healthcare (CNH) program. She is currently a full time Senior Clerk at the Montefiore Family Care Center and will begin nursing school in the Spring of 2018.