I am so thankful for Per Scholas, and for this country. If my story can encourage even one person, it is enough for me and I would feel happy.
IT Support Specialist
Julie Meral worked as a teacher for 15 years in her home country of Turkey before her family decided to move to the U.S. for her husband’s job. The move was tough for Julie, who spoke no English and had adjusted to an entirely new culture. She worked as a Turkish teacher for a few years before deciding that she wanted to change her career to something that would involve helping people and solving problems daily.
The family moved to Maryland in 2018, and Julie found out about Per Scholas. She was intrigued by the thought of a cost-free program that would allow her to make a total career change, but she was nervous about applying as she had no experience in IT and worried that her English would not be enough. The team members that Julie spoke with at Per Scholas encouraged her to try applying, and she was soon accepted into Baltimore’s IT Support cohort.
The program was difficult for Julie, immersing her in a new language and an entirely new field of study. However, Julie persevered, making appointments with her Per Scholas teachers almost every day after class to ensure she understood everything.
“When you move to a new country, especially past a certain age,” Julie reflected, “it’s not easy to learn a new language and culture and start in a new field. It’s harder than anything! But [my teachers] helped me all the way, and I can tell you, if I call them for anything, they will help me.”
Julie landed an internship a few months after graduating, and within three months, they hired her as a full employee. She now works full-time as an IT Support Specialist and is in the process of making a long-anticipated move to a role in cybersecurity.
Throughout Julie’s training and transition to her new career, Julie emphasizes that her family was critically important in providing her with the support and encouragement she needed to make it through. “I am so thankful for my family,” Julie said. “They encourage me all the time. If I want to do something for my education or future, my husband tells me to do it. He will help with the cooking and cleaning. In our culture, the woman’s role is so heavy. It is different from American culture. But he and my kids help me around the house. The most important thing to me, though, is encouragement…My kids are so happy that I changed my career. They are proud of me because they know I am trying to do something new. They see me try my best, and I know they are proud of me. That means so much!”
With the money she is making in her new career, Julie is dedicated to giving back. “If I can make money, I can share with poorer people, and I am doing this now,” she said. “In my country, there is a terrible situation because of our president, and I am helping people who don’t have money or jobs. This is my focus now. I am also trying to help the community in Maryland.”
Due to the complex political situation, some members of Julie’s community in Turkey have also moved to the U.S. “It is not an easy situation, and they are also trying to start new careers,” Julie reflected. “They tell me all the time: when we watch you, we think we can do it too. This feeling is more important to me than anything! …I am trying to be an example for women anywhere in the world. We need to encourage each other—especially women, especially those who came to America from different countries and backgrounds. If you decide to do something, you can do it! No one can stop you. Find a way for education, and use your time and energy for people who need you. I am so thankful for Per Scholas and this country…If my story can encourage even one person, it is enough for me, and I would feel happy.”
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I never really knew how to communicate professionally or sell myself in an interview, but with the management and development team at Per Scholas, I was able to build on my mindset, my character, and my technical skills. I am grateful for Per Scholas in many ways.