When a client doesn’t read or write, it makes substance use disorder (SUD) recovery much more difficult. Often employment options are very limited, leading to depression and anxiety that can fuel addictions. For that reason, in 2022, LifeWorks NW’s Nancy, a bilingual chemical dependency counselor in our Spanish-speakers DUII program, began working with EducateYa to provide Spanish speakers reading and writing classes. The first client or two got excellent, well-paying jobs that enabled them to turn their lives around. So, in January 2023, Nancy, with the support of her supervisor began expanding these efforts to help more clients with education and career opportunities.
“This pilot project has rapidly expanded because the clients in my Spanish SUDs program are eager to eliminate barriers by improving their language skills and also want access to high-paying jobs,” says Nancy. “In addition to lessons to read and write Spanish through EducateYa, we also now provide clients with English classes, help with getting their GED, and the opportunity to pursue auto mechanic certification, both during and after their SUDs treatment program.”
The auto mechanic certification only requires ID from one’s country of origin or the state of Oregon. The GED preparation in Spanish is in collaboration the Centro Cultural in Cornelius.
“We have two clients studying Spanish, eight studying English, six exploring auto mechanic certification and three who will be studying to get their GED,” says Nancy.
Nancy also found a non-profit that helps clients with their documentation to live and work in the US.
According to Nancy, luckily, the SUD program had received funding to hire Supported Education/Supported Employment Specialist Kathryn for their clients. It was a perfect fit since Nancy was able to provide Kathryn with a group of clients already in place. Kathryn is now guiding the ones who are starting to work on the requirements for auto mechanic certification, and she is helping to monitor those who are learning languages and/or studying for their GED. Once they complete their DUII program with Nancy, they can transition fully into Supported Employment and/or Supported Education with Kathryn.
“One of the clients learning to read and write his native language of Spanish is such a star student that his teacher says he is blazing through packet after packet, and she has to keep sending him new ones because he’s so excited about learning to read and write,” says Nancy. “On the career side, another client is pursuing the auto mechanic certification. At the same time, he is learning English.
“He said, ‘I feel like I’m starting my whole life over, I’m so excited about the possibilities of what I can do now. It’s everything I wanted to do, like go have a career in something that is high-paying and learning English.’”