Seven years ago, when Pooja Chalmeti began taking free courses online and self-learning IT, she never imagined she would be working as a Quality Assurance Analyst at Duke Energy. Once a stay-at-home mom, the now working wife and mother of two is contributing financially to her household, and most importantly, to her kids’ college education.
“Knowledge is never a waste,” Pooja said when reminiscing on her experience at Goodwill.
She first learned of the nonprofit through a friend while working on a contract project. But when the COVID pandemic erupted in early 2020, and she was no longer working, she decided to take the opportunity to increase her skillset and enrolled in tuition-free courses offered through Goodwill University.
“Everyone was stuck at home, and I wanted to learn,” she explained.
For Pooja, increasing her skillset was her number one goal, but what she received from Goodwill was so much more.
“The skills were one part that I learned, and I gained, but the best part was the motivation and the confidence that I got after talking to Craig.”
In addition to free training courses, Goodwill participants also have access to free wraparound services, such as working with a Career Navigator and Employer Engagement Specialist, like Craig Kalhagen, who helped Pooja in advancing her career, and ultimately land her job with Duke Energy.
“Craig helped me in suggesting a few places where I could give interviews, and this was the first place I interviewed and was selected,” Pooja said.
Additionally, Pooja was assigned Career Navigator Courtney Papalii who helped her with resume and interview preparation. The experience was so impactful to Pooja, she returned to Goodwill after landing the job to take another IT course.
“I feel so blessed and thankful for this opportunity. It is such a blessing to everyone, not only me, especially for the people who cannot really afford to learn, although they have the capability to learn new stuff, but they do not have resources or income,” she said. “It’s such a beautiful experience.”
Courses like the one Pooja took are available free of charge to the community, thanks to shopping and donating at Goodwill’s 32 retail locations, in addition to corporate, community and philanthropic donations.
Today, Pooja is paying it forward. Not only does she recommend Goodwill to others, but she also volunteers her time with the nonprofit by speaking to current participants enrolled in its IT courses. Her advice to others when speaking about how you can help Goodwill is, “Give back to the nonprofit when you get a chance. It may be a small donation, it may be your time, it can be in any way.”