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Goodwill Manasota celebrates first graduates of JobsPlus Language program

Team members with limited fluency in English benefit from on-the-job supports, language immersion, practice opportunities while earning a competitive wage



SARASOTA/BRADENTON, FL – According to U.S. Census data, a language other than English is spoken at home in 18% of households in Manatee County (between 2018-2022, for ages 5+). Numerous studies indicate that English fluency is critical to succeeding in school and on the job in the U.S. Language limitations also impact one’s ability to secure necessary resources and access needed services, and provide support for any children in the home. Not only is spoken fluency important but also the ability to read, particularly as more and more of our lives become dependent on online resources.


In 2021 – thanks to philanthropist MacKenzie Scott’s gift of $10 million in December of 2020 – Goodwill Manasota added a new offering, the JobsPlus Language (JPL) program. The purpose of the program is to assist those who speak little to no English with employment, an opportunity to learn English on-the-clock, and a family-sustaining career path. Goodwill supplemented its bilingual staff support, continued on-the-clock classes and resources, and offered wraparound services to assist participants during and outside of work. This has served to provide an internal pathway to better wages as well as better prospects with other employers, and to offer an immersion model that can improve overall English proficiency in Manatee County.


Now, Goodwill is celebrating the recent graduation of two team members from the JobsPlus Language program. Lisbeth Leal Suarez and Lazara Munoz Jimenez – who both began working for Goodwill in November of 2022 – graduated from the JPL program in four and six months, respectively, and have earned promotions with the organization.


Suarez began her tenure as a sorter/hanger at Goodwill’s Honore store. After graduating from JPL, she then earned her Role Model Worker badge; two months later, she was promoted to pricer and continues to take advantage of the many educational opportunities available at the organization.


I feel very grateful for the JPL program because is a great opportunity for Latin people to learn English and work at the same time,” Suarez said. “I have to say a very huge thanks to Goodwill for the wonderful opportunity to learn English, to have a job, to meet my peers who are very special to me, and to grow in the company.”


Jimenez was hired as a sorter/hanger at the Mecca store, after a neighbor told her that Goodwill welcomed workers who don’t speak English. After her graduation from JPL, she was promoted to cashier and then she, too, earned her Role Model Worker badge. Just two weeks later, she became a keyholder at the Manatee Avenue location. As the JPL program requires that a leader at any location must be bilingual – in order to support Spanish language speakers who work there – Goodwill can now offer the JPL program at Jimenez’s store. She is now helping to train and encourage other Spanish speakers in the same program that helped to elevate her professional prospects.


In Cuba, Jimenez earned her high school diploma and later worked as a real estate lawyer but she has been unable to have her degree and credentials verified here in the U.S. She is now enrolled in GED classes and hopes to go on to college, with Goodwill’s support.


I am a living example of improvement, a product of one of Goodwill’s programs, making them feel proud of the time they have spent on my betterment,” Jimenez said. “I am very grateful for the opportunity to change my life completely, going from not being able to speak English to being able to do so fluently, for being able to become a leader, to witness the growth of the company and help them meet their goals, as they have helped me to do.”


“As a learning organization, we are committed to helping those who seek to better their prospects for work and life,” said Donn Githens, president and CEO of Goodwill Manasota. "English-language fluency is crucial to success in education, employment, health care, and relationships. We are excited to see the advancements that our JobsPlus Language participants have made since the program launch and congratulate Lisbeth and Lazara on their achievements.”


This year, Goodwill will be moving its JPL team members onto an online platform, Speexx, that will allow them to benefit from daily practice sessions as well as group sessions where they can practice speaking English with other learners.


The JobsPlus Language program manager is Natalie Caukwell. She is responsible for supporting the English-language training program and information and referral services; boosting retention through comprehensive needs assessments; and providing a full array of case management services with outcomes focused on career development and advancement, and strengthening families. Additional support is provided to ensure JobsPlus Language participants feel comfortable with their job duties, and help them practice speaking English.


For more about Goodwill, go to experiencegoodwill.org or call 941-355-2721.

 

PHOTO IDs:  

Recent JobsPlus Language program graduates Lazara Munoz Jimenez (left) and Lisbeth Leal Suarez with JobsPlus Language program manager Natalie Caukwell (center)

Recent JobsPlus Language program graduates Lazara Munoz Jimenez (left) and Lisbeth Leal Suarez

Provided photos/Goodwill Manasota

 

About Goodwill Manasota

Goodwill Manasota is an industry-leading 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that changes lives through the power of work. With philanthropic donations and revenue generated by the sales of donated goods, Goodwill is able to assist people with disabilities, veterans, seniors, and those with other barriers to employment by providing jobs, job skills training, and free career services. For more information or for a listing of locations, visit experiencegoodwill.org or call 941-355-2721.

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