Bay Area Student Unlocks Her American Dream
By Mai P. Tran, ECMC Foundation
Kateryn Raymundo is a senior at San Francisco State College and an intern at Salesforce. She hopes to begin a communications/marketing career in the nonprofit field.
While the determined and ambitious young woman knows what she wants to do next, Raymundo wasn't always so confident about her future.
When she was eight years old, Raymundo left her home and moved 5,000 miles away from Guatemala. Her family settled in San Francisco, where they believed better opportunities existed for family-sustaining careers. While the promise of the American Dream brought them to the states, they were not completely sure how to achieve it.
Believing that attending a better-resourced high school was part of it, Raymundo's parents enrolled her into a school nearly two hours away by bus. Getting there required waking up at 5 a.m. and connecting to a second bus through downtown San Francisco.
The connection stop through the city center was where Raymundo first realized her career aspirations. Through the large windows of her bus, she saw men and women of all ages and backgrounds dressed in professional attire. Longing to join them one day, she wondered: "How do I become that person?"
She set her sights on entering the professional business world, but she didn't know how to get there. With more than 1,000 students at George Washington High School, where she attended, counselors did not have the capacity to provide in-depth one-on-one college and career advising for students.
Enter Genesys Works, a program that equips and empowers students with the knowledge and skills necessary to enroll into, persist through and graduate from college, ready to launch careers. Genesys Works achieves this mission through four-interlocking components: professional and technical skills training; a paid, year-long corporate internship; college and career coaching; and support through college and career. Established in Houston, Texas, in 2002, the organization has expanded to other regions, including the San Francisco Bay Area, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Chicago and the Washington, D.C. region.
Genesys Works staff walked into one of Raymundo's classrooms during junior year of high school and the rest was history.
"They presented a flyer; on one side of the flyer, there was a man in a fast food restaurant outfit and on the other, the same man was in a professional suit," Raymundo said. "I looked at the man in the suit and I said, 'That's going to be me.'"
Genesys Works helps students with college and scholarship applications. Every Monday night, Raymundo and other participants met with their Genesys Works program coordinator to work on applications.
"College applications are complicated and difficult, especially for someone who is a first-generation college student like me," she said. "Without Genesys Works, I don't know how I would have completed them."
Professional and technical skills training, along with a corporate internship, are also hallmarks of the Genesys Works program. The summer between her junior and senior year, Raymundo participated in an intense eight-week training that consisted of professional development workshops on resume writing, networking, professional etiquette and more. She also had IT training to prepare her for an internship at Salesforce.
Raymundo initially was nervous about entering a male-dominated field, but she said the internship helped her work through those fears.
"The team at Salesforce was very inclusive and welcoming," she said. "They taught me everything and showed me that I could excel. It was very empowering and made me believe in myself."
After high school, Raymundo joined the Genesys Works Alumni Program, which provides ongoing academic counseling services and professional development for program participants who complete the Genesys Works high school program. Through the alumni program students receive encouragement and support during their transition into and through college. The program also provides resume and cover letter writing assistance, internship placement, and career and networking opportunities. With the support of ECMC Foundation, Genesys Works was able to enrich the alumni program with additional support services and assistance to obtain more internships for college students.
When asked whether she would recommend the program, Raymundo replied, "Most definitely," then chuckled and added, "I made my brother go through the program—and he just started college."
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