Nonprofit teaches skills, changes lives
JobTrain provides lowincome youths, adults with training programs
MENLO PARK » From the beginning, the cards were stacked against Alexandra Pollich.
Her German-born father was deported for illegal business dealings when she was 7 years old. Her mother, who had never worked, turned to drugs to cope and the family bounced between homeless shelters and hotel rooms, never knowing when the next meal might come.
“It was bad,” said Pollich, now 22.
Things are much better these days and she has since realized her dream of working in the medical field thanks in part to JobTrain, a Menlo Park-based nonprofit agency that provides low- income youths and adults in San Mateo and Santa Clara counties with accredited career training programs, essential life skills training and support services.
Pollich, who graduated from the organization’s medical assisting program last year, is currently working full-time as amedical assistant at Kaiser Permanente in Redwood City.
“I’m happy,” she said. “I love what I do.”
Her path to the present was rocky. On her 11th birthday, she was placed in foster care. Then, as a 15- year- old freshman, she got pregnant and was forced to attend a continuation school.
Pollich, who moved in with her baby’s father and later married him, managed to finish school a year early and even landed a job as a laboratory technician at an orthodontist office. But the work was lonely and low-paying — far from the career she had envisioned.
She resigned and enrolled in a medical assisting programat a local community college, but it didn’t work out for a number of reasons, one of them being her mother’s rescinded promise to help her make ends meet until she completed her schooling.
Pollich appeared to have run out of options, but friends suggested checking out JobTrain.
Last year, 83 percent of the organization’s graduates obtained high- quality jobs, and 12 months af- ter being hired, 85 percent are still working and many have been promoted, according to Lois MarshallWard, a senior development officer with JobTrain.
Pollich is among JobTrain’s success stories. She enrolled in the 16-week medical assisting program in February 2016. A related 160-hour externship at Kaiser Permanente in Redwood City ultimately led to a well-paying position six months later.
“It’s a place of possibilities,” said Hayam Demian, Pollich’s formermedical assisting programinstructor. Demian now serves as the nonprofit’s director of instruction and career development.
Thanks to the new job, Pollich said she was able to move her family out of a cramped studio apartment in Redwood City and into a two-bedroom apartment in Belmont.
“I would’ve never been where I am now if it wasn’t for JobTrain,” she said. “I probably would have still been working at the orthodontic office making $10 an hour.”
What’smore, Pollich said she now looks forward to work.
“You meet a lot of differ-
“I would’ve never been where I amnow if itwasn’t for JobTrain.” — Alexandra Pollich, JobTrain graduate
ent patients,” said Pollich, who as a laboratory technician at the orthodontist office was relegated to sterilizing equipment by herself in a back room. “Even though you’re a medical assistant, they remember your name. It feels nice.”
Pollich has other reasons to celebrate. She recently reconnected with her father, who is now “making money the right way” in his home country and even provided her family with financial support while she attended the medical assisting program at JobTrain.
Because 95 percent of its clients are low-income or extremely low-income, JobTrain doesn’t charge for its programs, training or services. The nonprofit instead depends heavily on donations. Through Wish Book this year, it hopes to raise $6,500, which will be used to pay for transportation passes, work uniforms and textbooks for 150 students.
Pollich said she would recommend JobTrain to anyone who finds themselves in a situation similar to hers.
“If it changed my life,” she said, “it can change someone else’s.”
Alexandra Pollich is a graduate in JobTrain’s medical assistant program and now works at Kaiser.