Voices From the Lab: Jobs, Citizenship Not So Distant in TFA’s Lab

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“The naturalization ceremony is a solemn and meaningful event,” says the Notice of Naturalization Oath Ceremony from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Jose, a regular at the Denver Harbor Multi-Service Center lab in Houston, Texas, has spent over a year working for that notice. “Jose is always trying to improve his skills and better himself to increase his chances to land a good job,” says Chris, the Technology For All Program Specialist.

As part of the Texas Connects Coalition, Technology For All (TFA) hires and trains Program Specialists like Chris to teach people in rural and urban Texas technology skills, especially in computer basics, Microsoft Office Suite and other programs that help them move beyond unemployment or underemployment to job security, living wages and self-sufficiency.

Like many of our users, understanding computers is an essential step to this move—but it’s rarely the only need. Jose emigrated from Mexico 24 years ago, but his immigrant status made him vulnerable to unfair employment practices. The only way to get a better life was through a better job, and the only way to get a better job was with computer skills, a typed resume and citizenship.

Luckily, Jose can get all that in our lab.

At TFA, connecting goes beyond the speed of your Internet. Jose had the drive to improve his life, but he needed the right tools and the education to use them. For a year and a half, twice a week, Jose visited the lab at Denver Harbor to complete Chris’ computer basics classes and practice his new skills in open lab sessions. “I need my education,” Jose says. “Here, I find good teachers and I enjoy the way they teach.” Now, he regularly checks his email, searches the web for jobs and gets involved with civic issues. Pretty good, for someone who had never used a computer before.

But our Specialists don’t stop at teaching how to right click or set up an email account. When Jose decided to tackle his next barrier, he began the citizenship process with Chris at his side. “Jose and I pulled up the 100 citizenship questions of the Internet,” explains Chris. “I drilled him for about a month. He also used some great online resources, like Cambridge Ventures, to practice.”

Chris also helped Jose write, type and email a letter to his state representative to expose Jose’s last employer, who took advantage of employees like Jose.

Jose took his Naturalization Oath in March 2012 and found a job shortly after. He still visits the lab to check emails and see Chris, his teacher and friend.

Source: Technology For All

The public computer lab is located on the second floor of the Denver Harbor Multi-Service Center in Houston’s Denver Harbor community. It offers a variety of classes and open use sessions. For more information, please contact the center at (713) 670-2143 or visit at 6402 Market St.

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