Qahir Travels Long Distances in Pursuit of His Dreams

In the year 2012, Qahir Zaeem, 22 at the time, had recently moved to the United States from Pakistan. He barely spoke English and he felt lost in a new country. Flash forward to now, Qahir was voted valedictorian of his Per Scholas class and delivered the Valedictorian address to a room full of peers, colleagues, teachers, friends and family. His transformation began at our doors.

He arrived to the United States with optimism. He held a degree in Engineering from his home country and felt confident it would not be difficult to get a job in America. After months of sending out hundreds of resumes, his search for a job in technology was fruitless. He settled for a job that would pay the bills but he wasn’t utilizing his education. 

He started looking into technology schools in the New York area to find that many for-profit schools didn’t provide the professional development training he knew he would need to succeed. Then he came across Per Scholas. Enticed by the opportunity to take free classes, Qahir didn’t apply immediately, skeptical that the “free” advertising had a catch. 

One day not long after this encounter, Qahir was reading The New York Times and saw an article featuring a Per Scholas graduate. Realizing the program’s success and legitimacy, Qahir took the time to apply and learn more.

To gain admittance into a Per Scholas course, every applicant must take a basic adult educational assessment (TABE). Despite English being his second language, Qahir failed the English portion of the test by only one mark. Forlorn and discouraged because of his close failure to get into Per Scholas, Qahir resumed his day job. 

A second chance came. He received a phone call from Rosa Matos of Per Scholas. Rosa described to him an alternative route into the IT Support class:  TechBridge, a five-week bridge program for young adults who are well suited for the Per Scholas training and qualify for math and English tutoring. The program catches participants up in the basic educational content while also priming them for success in Per Scholas’ intensive IT Support course. On round two, Qahir successfully passed the exam. 

The next hurdle was to pass the very intensive course—and not miss the train. “Per Scholas’ IT support course was like a full-time job and the commute was no laughing matter. I traveled from the far reaches of Queens to the South Bronx,” Qahir said of his three hour train ride. There is a zero-tolerance attendance policy the first two weeks of the course with no exceptions if students show up to the start of class even one minute late. Qahir made it.

From his overall experience, Qahir notes benefitting most from the course was the career development provided, the part of the course that teaches essential workplace skills like communication, interviewing, and workplace etiquette. “I simply was shy. But through the outstanding career development sessions, I learned more than just how to fix up my resume. They helped me gain confidence in my ability to communicate my thoughts effectively to any crowd I faced,” Qahir shares.

That confidence allowed Qahir to deliver a heartwarming and powerful valedictorian speech. “Before I was shaking. Now I am confident. I have built relationships and skills that will ultimately be beneficial and valuable for the longevity of my career. It was worth the three hour train ride.”

Qahir interviewed with 10 companies three weeks after graduating and accepted a position with Optimum as a Technical Support Representative. 

“There is no replacement for hard work. If you are a hard worker, it doesn’t matter what color or what background you have. If you are determined or you are a hard worker, you can do anything.”

To learn more about Qahir, click here.

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