Tough Love & Determination

“Stop making excuses, don’t overthink, just do it.”

Jennifer radiates inspiration. Her voice is confident and her words are crafted with care. When you meet her, you can tell she’s proud of where she’s been and where she is going.

In seventh grade, Jennifer was uprooted from her home in Brazil, and she and her family moved to San Francisco with limited knowledge of English. She enrolled in a Spanish Immersion school, but due to the language barrier, she was placed two years behind in sixth grade. She recalls a particular English teacher who would go above and beyond to help improve her skills.

“I had a great teacher that wanted me to learn,” she says. “She would make me stay after school and stay in for lunch, and while the other kids were having fun I was learning the language.”

Jennifer came to high school with a firmer grasp on English language. But she had to put her education on hold when a family emergency called her back to Brazil. She came back to San Francisco a year later as a seventeen-year-old, but this time she decided she wanted to move out on her own.

“I didn’t feel like I was being supported and decided I wanted to do my own thing,” Jennifer says. “I came back to the United States and had to figure it all out by myself. I didn’t have the time to do a full day in high school so I stopped going.”

She landed a job at a small business in the Bay Area that sold recyclable bags. This job was a placeholder, as Jennifer had her mind set on continuing her education. While searching online, Jennifer came across several different programs that help out of school youth earn a GED/ HiSET Diploma. After entering a program, she dropped out because she felt it wasn’t right for her.

Jennifer heard about New Door Ventures through a colleague and came to an information session about the employment program. She talked with several different people about the program before starting. She instantly clicked with Rena, a Lead Educator at New Door.

“I will be honest, I was hesitant,” Jennifer admits. “I didn’t know if it was right for me and I wasn’t sure if I understood what New Door was about, but after I met Rena I knew it was the right fit…Rena encouraged me with tough love, exactly what I needed at that time.”

Jennifer was 22 when she was enrolled in the program, which made her one of the older youth in her cohort. At first, she felt out of place, but it made her determined to move forward with her education. She started studying for her GED. She passed science, social studies, and even English, a language she had learned only a few years prior.

Math is where Jennifer struggled to break ground. After failing this portion of the test, Rena and Jennifer decided she should try the HiSET test, which is known to be slightly easier without being an unfair reflection of student readiness for the workforce. Jennifer had to complete all individual tests again, despite having passed four of the five subjects of the GED. In preparation, two specialized tutors came in each week to help her study. After countless hours of studying, Jennifer was overjoyed to pass the test.

“I wanted to cry,” she recalls. “I felt like I was beating the system, this is one little step, and college is next.”

At this time Jennifer was working as a bartender and decided that due to the late hours of it would be difficult to go to school and continue working. Rena helped Jennifer apply for and keep on the lookout for new job opportunities. A contact was made with Genentech, a biotechnology company that “discovers, develops, manufactures and commercializes medicines to treat patients with serious or life threatening medical conditions.” After five rounds of interviews, Jennifer was hired in the corporate relations department, where she helps Genentech give back to the community through grants and philanthropy.

Jennifer is attending City College and is on track to graduate in two years with a degree in Psychology. She intends to transfer to University of California, Berkeley.

Jennifer continues to push the boundaries and surpass the expectations that people place on her. She’s a strong advocate of education, and is proud to have found help.

“I came from a background where you have to be strong and figure out life by yourself,” she says. “When I came to New Door Ventures I had to ask for help. I was not used to it… After I did, it opened new doors…asking for what I need, being persistent and accepting the help, got me where I am today.”