In September 2017, Hurricane Maria caused more than $90 billion in damage – mostly in Puerto Rico where Jose and Jennifer lived and lost everything. “We were without water, power, food,” Jennifer tells us as she reheats dinner for her family. The couple and their two sons relocated to Charlotte soon after the hurricane hit.
Thankfully, they had a support system in place – Jose’s brother works for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department. “But to start our life here, I needed a job,” Jose said. He had experience speaking English as a reservist in the U.S. Air Force, and he started applying to jobs. However, Jennifer, knowing no English at all, enrolled in a language course at Central Piedmont Community College. She heard about Goodwill at a job fair on campus, and they both enrolled in Goodwill’s free construction basics training program and began to work with a career coach.
“For me, Goodwill has given me my life,” Jennifer said. While the construction course helped to translate her engineering knowledge, she points to one conversation with her Goodwill coach that established her new career.
Midway through the course, Jennifer was invited to interview for a job she desperately wanted – working on assessments for the light rail extension through Charlotte. “The day of the interview, I was very nervous. I couldn’t walk. I was shaking. I’d never interviewed in English,” she said. Jennifer began to tear up as she recalled visting her coach, Keitha, who provided the exact advice she needed. “She asked me interview questions and then she said, ‘If it’s God’s plan, then you have this job already,’” Jennifer said. In that moment, Jennifer let go of all her nerves and fears. “That experience was amazing. I got into the interview with such confidence,” she said. And it showed – she got the job!
As he looks proudly at his wife, Jose tells us, “She’s the bomb!” Their support for each other is evident, as is their love for one another. As they start to plate their dinner, Jose tells us the construction course enabled him to get a job with Turner Construction building a new Apple data center in Maiden, NC. “Goodwill gave me the tools I needed to get a first opportunity with the company. Before I graduated, I already had the job,” he said. Since then, Jose has been promoted to a carpentry apprentice.
Their new positions have helped them save enough to move their family into a new apartment, which is finally starting to feel like home. “Now, I can feed my family,” Jose said. “I can morally feel better as a husband and a community member. Goodwill gave me the skills to do this.”