A Proteus Gem

Martin Mora Jr.

 

When meeting Martin Mora Jr. for the first time, you are instantly drawn to his easy charm and huge smile. Tall, clean-cut, and professionally dressed, Martin is the epitome of a great first impression.  Spend some time with him, though, and his infectious laugh and positive attitude captivates you beyond first impression.

 

Proteus staff got a different first impression of Martin when he walked into the Fresno Service Center in 2010 looking for work.  Nineteen at the time, Martin wore long hair, baggy clothes, and a hat turned to the side. He had no work experience, no vehicle, and unstable living conditions.  What Martin lacked in first impression, he made up in determination.

 

Initially, not qualifying for the Department of Labor (DOL) farmworker program, Martin went out and found employment as a farmworker harvesting fruit during the heat of the summer until he could qualify.  He returned to Proteus and enrolled in paid work experience and began training as an office assistant at the Proteus Fresno Service Center. With supportive services for work attire, Martin reported to training on the first day looking professional and confident.  The transformation was remarkable. Through training, Martin learned many transferrable office skills, such as answering multi-line phones, assisting customers with completing forms, resumes, on-line applications, communicating eligibility requirements, and outreach.  After finishing six months of training, Martin was able to get a place of his own, obtain a driver’s license, purchase a vehicle, and find full-time employment.

 

Today, Martin has been employed for the past two years at Quickeroo, a grocery store catering to Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) recipients.  He started in a customer service position, but was quickly promoted to store manager at a new location in Selma. “I love being able to help other people in need, and that is what Quickeroo does.  Families are able to receive food at a discounted price,” shares Martin. Visiting Martin’s store, you can see the love and care he puts into it. The shelves are impeccably stocked and organized, and the floors and counters pristine.  Equal attention is given to his customers. He personally packs and delivers each grocery bag to his customers’ cars- all with that same easy charm and huge smile you experience when you first meet him.

 

If you ask Martin about his childhood or upbringing, he becomes noticeably uneasy.  He nervously laughs and says he’d prefer to talk about where he is today and how Proteus has helped him.  “Proteus has not just helped me, but members of my family,” states Martin. Since coming to Proteus, he has referred his father, uncle, and brother-in-law.  His father and uncle, both farmworkers, enrolled in and completed Proteus truck driving training; and, his brother-in-law enrolled in and completed Proteus solar installation training.  Each is now gainfully employed.

 

Thank you, Martin, for allowing Proteus to serve you and for sharing your story with us.  

A Proteus Gem

Teresa Mendoza

 

Teresa Mendoza and her family immigrated to the United States from a small, poor community in Oaxaco, Mexico in 1998.  Teresa was only eight years old, but was very aware of the hardship her family endured and the hopes they had of a better life in the United States.   Settling in Kerman, California, the family began harvesting strawberries and grapes and Teresa enrolled in school. Unfortunately, educating Teresa and her siblings proved difficult because they did not speak English or Spanish, and there were no interpreters available that spoke her native language, Mixteco.  

 

In 2000, Teresa and her siblings were referred to Proteus and provided tutoring, food, clothing, and INS assistance through the youth program.  After several months of tutoring in English, Teresa began to read and understand English better and continued to learn on her own until she graduated from Kerman High School in 2006.  During these early years in the United States, her family would migrate to Oregon to harvest berries and then return to Kerman to harvest raisin grapes. Unfortunately her father had frequent asthma attacks and was often unable to work, so Teresa and her siblings would have to work in the fields to make ends meet.  In addition, the young Teresa had the responsibility of accompanying her father to doctor visits to act as interpreter. This was frustrating to Teresa and her family because they felt they were treated differently because her father did not speak English or Spanish. At this moment, Teresa knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life.  She would become a medical assistant to assist others in similar situations.

 

Teresa enrolled in Fresno City College, but her plans were quickly derailed when her father unexpectedly passed away.  Using all her savings to return to Mexico for the funeral, Teresa was unable to continue with tuition and books. The birth of her first child, and the need to help support her growing family, forced Teresa to return to the fields.  Her dream of becoming a medical assistant was never far from her mind.

Petite and seemingly shy, Teresa’s case manager quickly refutes this notion, describing her instead, as a confident young woman who knew exactly what she wanted when she returned to Proteus in 2010. She wanted to return to school.  Teresa was enrolled in Proteus’s Department of Labor (DOL) farmworker program and was provided tuition and transportation costs that enabled her to enroll in the Medical Assistant Training Program at UEI College in Fresno. Teresa was awarded perfect attendance four times while in training and was an honor roll student.  She graduated from UEI in August, 2011 and completed her Internship at United Health Center in Kerman shortly after. One month later, Teresa was hired as a clinical medical assistant at Valley Health Team in San Joaquin. She is making a good wage with benefits, and is currently in the process of closing escrow on her first home.  

 

Teresa’s father moved his family to the United States in order to provide them with a better life.  “If my dad was alive today, he would be very proud. He would be happy that I am no longer working in the fields and doing something I always wanted to do,” states Teresa.  

 

Thank you Teresa for sharing your update on a story that began over 15 years ago.  You are an inspiration to us all.

A Proteus Gem

Zechariah Penn

 

It was obvious to staff that Zechariah Penn did not want to be at Proteus when he walked into the Dinuba Service Center with his mom in July, 2012.  He was quiet, serious, and did not smile. It was apparent that 19-year-old Zechariah would much rather be doing something else, but his mom had other ideas.  

 

Zechariah was an out-of-school youth at the time, having recently graduated from Ronald Reagan Academy in Dinuba.  He had no work history and no idea how to look for a job. But times were difficult and Zechariah’s mom needed his help.  After 15 years of employment, Zechariah’s mom, who raised him and his younger sister on her own, was laid off. Unemployment benefits were their sole source of income, and it wasn’t enough to make ends meet.  Proteus was their only option.

 

Zechariah was immediately enrolled into Proteus’s youth program.  The goal for Zechariah was to get him interview ready to prepare for job search and ultimately employment.   This responsibility fell directly on his case manager who gladly took Zechariah under her wing. The first order of business was to work with Zechariah on his soft skills.  He learned the importance of properly introducing himself to prospective employers and participated in mock interviews in preparation for job search. He received assistance with resume preparation, job search techniques, and how to complete a job application.  He was also versed on the importance of first impressions and the need to “dress for success.” Proteus provided Zechariah with supportive services that enabled him to purchase proper interview attire.

 

Zechariah was a quick learner and his case manager started to notice a change in him.  He seemed excited about the prospect of getting a job and was showing interest in working as a stock clerk.  His case manager contacted Kmart and got Zechariah an interview. It was up to Zechariah now to put all that he learned into practice.  His case manager immediately received a call from the human resources manager at Kmart. She was very impressed with Zechariah and shared that she wished everyone came to the interview as prepared as Zechariah.  He immediately started his paid work experience training at Kmart. Zechariah was very proud to hold this first job and took it very seriously, never coming in late or missing a day of work. After completing his training, he now had the confidence and experience and easily found employment at Wal-Mart in Dinuba.  Zechariah has worked full-time at Wal-Mart since February, 2013 and is enjoying his job and being able to provide for his family.

 

Talking to Zechariah today, a completely different young man appears.  He is open, laughs easily, and a smile is never far from his face. His mom is especially thrilled by the transformation and is excited to see where Zechariah’s motivation and experience will take him.

 

Proteus is excited to highlight this successful youth and look forward to following his story.  Thank you, Zechariah, for choosing Proteus to assist you in your job search.

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