Finding a career path & a new dream through Thrive by 25

Mar 12, 2019

(pictured above: Thrive by 25 Career Connections student Jose Carillo (center) with his Job Placement Coach Maria Turkel (right) and Norwalk Community College’s Associate Dean of Extended Studies & Workforce Development, Kristina TestaBuzzee (left))

When Jose Carillo decided to enroll in the Thrive by 25 Career Connections program at Norwalk Community College (NCC), he was a high school graduate with a long commute to a job as a camp counselor. In little more than a year, the program gave him a running start toward a new career – and a new dream of becoming a doctor.

Career Connections, a demonstration project supported through Fairfield County’s Community Foundation’s Thrive by 25 initiative and the Norwalk Community College Foundation, helped youth ages 18 to 25  transition into the workplace by earning Allied Health workforce training certificates. Through a comprehensive support system including scholarships, internships, clinical experiences, job placement and career coaching, participants developed clear pathways to sustaining careers in healthcare, one of the state’s fastest-growing employment sectors.

Jose Carillo’s success story began with Thrive by 25.

The wraparound support model offered through programs like Career Connections can make a significant impact to help young people create a brighter future for themselves.

As NCC Job Placement Coach Maria Turkel recalls, when Jose signed up for Career Connections in September 2017, he lacked self-confidence. So program staff hired Jose to do support work, giving him an opportunity to build experience and other soft skills. They also worked with him to make sure he was studying, and helped him learn time management strategies to better balance his job, commute and coursework.

 “When Jose started the Career Connections program in September 2017, he was shy. But he’s grown in huge leaps and bounds. He built his confidence doing support work in our office, and worked with us to start job hunting. By Christmas, he went for his first interview and got hired on the spot. He was surprised to get hired so quickly, and to actually have choices on which job to take. He’s now matriculated at Norwalk Community College in nursing and has a scholarship. He has a plan, and it has taken off. Jose is a success story.”

 – Maria Turkel, Job Placement Coach Career Connections Program at NCC

Their efforts paid off. In just three semesters, Jose earned three credential certificates to work as a certified nurse assistant, phlebotomy tech and EKG tech. He also earned a customer service certificate, giving him an edge with prospective employers.

Turkel and other staff members also helped Jose take concrete steps for job hunting, from building his resumé and finding job postings online to attending lunch-and-leap sessions where he could ask questions and be inspired by successful program participants’ stories.

With the support of Career Connections staff, Jose applied for a number of positions and, within three months, found his first job. He is now working as a CNA at an assisted living facility. Jose also earned a scholarship and is now matriculated into NCC’s nursing program, where he is earning prerequisite credits for a nursing degree.

Long-term, his plans are even bigger: Jose’s new goal is to keep studying and work towards becoming a doctor.

Connecting “opportunity youth” to meaningful careers creates brighter futures.

 Fairfield County’s Community Foundation’s Thrive by 25 initiative is aimed at serving young people ages 16 to 24 who have not earned a degree and are not currently in school or working full-time. By matching these young people with educational programs that give them skills for jobs in sectors that are growing, the goal is to provide a greater opportunity to succeed.

“From the time I started the Thrive by 25 Career Connections program at Norwalk Community College, I got a lot of support. Lauren and Marie helped me learn to manage my time, and successfully balance study and work. They also helped me build my resumé, and sent me links to apply for jobs. In three semesters, I earned three certificates: Certified Nurse’s Aide (CNA), Phlebotomy and EKG Tech. I’m currently working as a CNA, and got a scholarship from NCC to earn my nursing prerequisites. Long-term, it’s my dream to become a doctor.”

 – Jose Carillo, Student Thrive by 25 Career Connections Program

 For opportunity youth like Jose, the direction and support offered through programs like Career Connections can make all the difference in achieving credentials and a meaningful career. And for educators like Turkel, who have seen too many students struggle and fail to persevere, the chance to help young people write their own success stories is heartening.

Jose is now doing his part to encourage other young people to follow their dreams. After attending several panels to learn about Thrive by 25 opportunities, Jose has himself become a speaker and is sharing his story about how Career Connections helped him move forward. For Jose, it’s one way to show appreciation for the support he received through the program.

“Thrive by 25 is amazing,” says Jose. “The amount of time and care they put in, and the dedication to help me be better, was so wonderful. Now I have a path forward.”

Learn more about our work on innovative solutions to close the opportunity gap in Fairfield County.