Catherine Hernandez-Navarro

This story is part of our “Reach Your Potential” series, which features individuals from our Jobs Waiting TechHire program.

Born in Honduras, Catherine Hernandez-Navarro was adopted by a family in Westchester County, and grew up in the town of Ardsley. School wasn’t easy, she says: she had an academic disability and worked with many tutors over the years.

While her classmates made post-high school plans, she did too. She thought she wanted to study forensic science, and enrolled at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City. At the same time, she ventured out on her own, moving out of the family home she’d been in for 18 years.

 “My parents pushed me to be on my own because they thought it would build my character,” Hernandez-Navarro explains. While she was adjusting to life on her own, and to college, she realized her heart wasn’t in her new program. After one semester, she left John Jay. She enrolled at Westchester Community College, then went on to Purchase College, where she earned a bachelor’s degree.

After graduation, she moved to an apartment in White Plains, and worked in a few different marketing jobs in Westchester and New York City, eventually landing at Centers Health Care in The Bronx. After the organization downsized, she wasn’t sure about her next step.

“Losing my job last year is what made me hit a wall. I wasn’t passionate about the work I was doing, but didn’t feel I had the right background to change directions. I felt burned out and close to giving up. I felt like a lost cause, after struggling on my own for ten years, just trying to get by. I felt like I had peaked and that was it,” said Hernandez-Navarro. “Oh, was I so wrong!” she says now.

A happy accident, then a total turnaround

Hernandez-Navarro found the Jobs Waiting program by accident. She had missed a career fair and was beating herself up about it. She walked into the Mt. Vernon career center where she met Fawn Fisher, a career coach there. Fisher asked her if she knew what she wanted to do.

“I said information technology, which I feel is limitless. It was my hobby, but I wanted it to be my profession. So I started the Tech Hire program with a small bit of hope that I’d be able to get my life back together. Since then, I’ve made a total turnaround.”

The five-week career readiness program has helped her in myriad ways, she says. Money management workshops taught her about the importance of saving; career coaching helped her to identify the hard and soft skills she possessed; and the daily practice of “‘Stand and State” improved her public speaking skills helped instill a newfound confidence.

“In the beginning I felt out of place and shy,” she says. “This whole experience has made me into a better person. I actually know who I am, and have new sense of purpose. I feel I have a chance at success, a feeling I thought I had lost. I can finally breathe.”

 

 

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