Kombo Inko-Tariah, the first of many star graduates from the National Capital Region
“Once my kids were put to bed, I would job search. From 9:00 PM to 9:00 AM. I applied to more than 700 jobs–20 a day or more. I couldn’t find a job.”
Kombo Inko-Tariah is a graduate from the first Per Scholas National Capital Region IT-Ready class. Out of his 15 classmates, fifty-percent were long-term unemployed prior to enrolling. Among them, the average period since their last job was 19 months. When Per Scholas opened its doors this past spring in the National Capital Region (NCR) to offer its free IT-Ready job training and CompTIA A+ certification course, it was a saving grace.
“My reaction when I found Per Scholas was — ‘What?! A+ certification–for free?!’ It was awesome.” Kombo completed his Associate’s degree in Information Systems knowing he wanted a career in technology. He worked in software sales in a previous job, which sparked an interest in how that software actually got made and how it worked. Upon completing his degree, he thought the employers would come calling and grab him up knowing how in-demand tech jobs were.
“No one called.”
“Why do you think that is, Kombo?” I had to ask.
“It’s because I had no certifications.”
“How can you know that for sure?”
“The interviews I did have, the conversation ended after they asked me if I had certifications,” he enlightened me. “The day I completed my A+ at Per Scholas and updated my resume, I started getting calls like wildfire. Four recruiters called me that day. I didn’t even reach out to them. They found me and I was interviewing within the week.”
Kombo was one of many of his classmates to immediately begin work upon completing the 8-week training. He even bypassed the entry-level role he was initially considered for and jumped two levels to start work as a Project Implementation Specialist for the Social Security Administration. He credits much to the Per Scholas training team for this.
Kombo was not short of words in expressing gratitude to his tech instructor Adam Turner. “Adam taught me how to learn and was a very big inspiration to me,” Kombo went on, “He would stand for 8 hours a day, for 8 weeks straight, and teach us. Eight hours! He would stand! ‘How does he do it?’ I would ask myself. I have never been in a classroom where the teacher stands the entire time and teaches without stopping–for eight hours. He commanded my attention and I thought if he can do that for me, I can do my very best for him. It was motivating.”
In addition to tech training, Per Scholas students receive one day a week of career coaching throughout the course to ready resumes, practice interviewing, effectively job search and prepare to re-enter the workforce. H.Y. Griffin is the Career Coach in the NCR office and Kombo admitted, “We wouldn’t always take that part of the class as seriously. But then as I interviewed, I saw everything Griffin taught us… was right. I could speak intelligently and confidently about everything on my resume. I could defend my certification. We owe a lot to Griffin.”
Managing Director of the site Bridgette Gray was very hands-on with Kombo’s class as well–she personally nominated Kombo for this student of the month feature. “Bridgette never once used the word ‘fail’ with us. It was always ‘when you guys pass, when you land your job.’ She would never give up on any one of us no matter how much we could feel discouraged.”
Bridgette has the same to say about Kombo. In addition to thanking him for being our courtesy on-site photographer (fun fact, Kombo is an incredibly talented professional photographer), she lauded Kombo for his positive attitude, motivation, perseverance, and commitment to Per Scholas and his classmates. “Accepting Kombo into our inaugural class was one of the best decisions we made as a site. Kombo came in with so much determination, not only for himself, but for ALL of us. He was intent on EVERYONE being successful, which included staff. Post graduation, my professional relationship with Kombo has grown. I know he is eager to see Per Scholas succeed. He has consistently checked in with me on how the subsequent classes are doing, what can he do to support and has passed along tons of job leads. I feel so honored to not only call Kombo an alum of Per Scholas, but also a friend. Oh! and he takes one heck of a photograph.”
The highlight of our work at Per Scholas is getting to meet exceptional people like Kombo. He told a story toward the end of our conversation about his life’s journey. Originally from Nigeria, he had both a good life and a life of struggle. As a young child, he lived a life where he was never without until one day, it all went away. Suddenly, having enough to eat became a struggle. Disappointment, not having what other people had, was how Kombo described this enormous disruption in his life.
When he had a family, he never wanted them to be disappointed in him. He wanted to be different. He said where he comes from, working in the airline business is the job. He always dreamed of working for Virgin airlines. He tried his luck one day applying and was shocked when he got the job. “That first job changed me. My attitude shifted to be that I could get what I wanted no matter the circumstance. There will always be obstacles, failure, but it is like a tree in your path and there is a way to the other side of that tree.”
Thus far, Kombo has let this positive attitude guide him on his journey from struggle to success as an A+ certified IT professional, a father of three, and a proud contributing worker here in the U.S.
His eldest son is 11 and told his father that he prayed for him to pass his test so he could get a good job so that he could then go to a good college. Smart kid. His father did just that and is well on his way up a pathway of success.
“I cannot fail for my son. Just try harder.”
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