Julissa Figueroa grew up in Puerto Rico, where she trained as a respiratory therapist before coming to the United States as an Army spouse. She worked a variety of jobs during her husband’s career, often serving as a cashier on base, or working in retail.
“The jobs all felt like an ending,” says Julissa. “I always enjoyed learning, but I was wishing for work that was more fulfilling.”
By the time Julissa and her family settled in Williamsburg, Julissa’s English had developed to the point that she could assist other Spanish speakers in her daughter’s school. Julissa would notice another mother struggling with English and would offer to help. Before long, the school was calling Julissa when they needed assistance communicating with a parent. Julissa’s daughter also would enlist her mother’s help when she noticed a family struggling. Julissa enjoyed serving others in this way, and the school counselor suggested that she pursue certification as a translator and interpreter.
Julissa visited the community college to inquire about training, and they referred her to Literacy for Life. Julissa was beginning to feel discouraged, but she came to Literacy for Life and met Rocio at the front desk. “She was so friendly and motivating,” remembers Julissa. “I felt really inspired and welcome.” Julissa met with Literacy for Life’s career counselor, who arranged informational interviews with professional interpreters in the area, and she began attending advanced ESL classes to continue honing her English.
Upon Rocio’s departure to pursue an opportunity at William & Mary, Literacy for Life hired Julissa as receptionist. Julissa is thrilled by the opportunity to sit on the other side of the desk, to motivate learners as Rocio motivated her, and to make everyone feel welcome. She is eager to learn new office skills and to continue improving her English on the job. While her previous jobs felt like endings, she says, “this feels like a beginning, like the first step of a meaningful career.”