"My whole family is stronger and happier."

Laura and family

Laura Alvarez and her husband, Alvino, thought that they had set the right course for their lives together raising a family. Laura was working full-time in the mortgage industry and her husband was thriving in his construction work-and then the economic crisis hit. Laura was able to string together a couple positions with the help of staffing agencies, but by 2010, she was laid off again and supporting her family on her unemployment.

"My experience was in the fields hit hardest by the crisis, and I couldn't find a job anywhere. With two very young kids at home and childcare so expensive, we decided it was best for me to stay home with them," Laura shares.

When the kids both entered elementary school, Laura started volunteering in the classroom. The school loved her, and she was invited to do more and more. Laura discovered her love of working with children. "I was hired working in the school lunch room and loved it! I really enjoyed working yard duty because I had so much more contact with the kids helping teach manners and standing in a straight line. It felt like a calling. But I didn't have the education to be a teacher or aid in the classroom, and we didn't have the money for me to go back to school."

Laura Alvarez Laura was happy to have the time with her kids and the other kids at school, but the job was very part time. It was hard with only one provider, and money was always tight.

"I was struggling with what to do when I met Bob Coakley [Opportunity Junction Board Member], and he encouraged me to apply to the administrative training program. More than encouragement, he kept pushing me through my own doubt until I finally decided to call.

I was so excited when I got the news I was accepted. I was feeling lost and unfocused; being accepted to this program changed everything for me. From building my confidence in life skills with Natalie to the computer skills and the interview preparation, I started to feel proud of myself again and thankful to OJ for teaching me."

Laura at work Laura's calling to help kids never left her. During the internship phase of the administrative training program, Laura saw an opportunity to work at First Five Contra Costa as an administrative assistant. "I knew the job was meant to be. I have the kids in my heart and still have a dream to become a teacher, but I know it will take time. Now, I am in a better position to be able to go back to school.

Before I went to Opportunity Junction, I was feeling depressed, battling headaches all the time. I feel so much better now, and my kids have picked up more responsibility since I am not always in the house! They are helping with chores and pitching in. My whole family is stronger and happier because they get to see me happy. I am so blessed, and all my life I will be thankful to OJ for coming into my life at the right time. They helped me create a new path with a lot of joy and opportunity to dream bigger. Every place I go, I will encourage other families to take advantage of this amazing opportunity."