Per Scholas Learner Featured on CBS Sunday Morning

CBS News feature on Richard Escotto as he studies during a cybersecurity course.

CBS News featured Per Scholas learner, Richard Escotto on their Sunday Morning program.  The feature focused on how many industries and labor markets are looking for employees following the pandemic and where those employees are working now.  Richard Escotto mentioned that after he lost his restaurant job at the beginning of the pandemic, he decided to change career paths into technology. “[The pandemic] did give me an opportunity that was rare and probably was never going to happen, and sometimes you just have to seize that,” Richard reflected.

Richard Escotto is set to graduate from Per Scholas New York in October 2021 from our Cybersecurity course.

Watch the full video here.

Per Scholas Atlanta Graduates Gain Industry Knowledge Through Capgemini’s Internship Program

Per Scholas has been a leader in connecting our learners with the skills and career development needed to pursue and land an IT career, however, opportunities like those which Capgemini provides have made it possible for our graduates to receive additional hands-on training and opportunities from their robust internship program.  Many Per Scholas graduates from Atlanta, and additional cities nationwide, have joined Capgemini as paid interns and become full-time team members after learning more about the IT industry, gaining industry experience, and meeting with mentors.  These opportunities are a great bridge between our tech training and industry experience for our learners and graduates.  

Rachel Powe graduated from Per Scholas Atlanta in 2020 and is now a Junior Software Engineer at Capgemini.  She initially started as an intern at Capgemini, but quickly moved into her current position with her tenacity and passion for technology.  Rachel noted that there wasn’t a big push for women in tech when she was attending college, so she didn’t pursue a technology path.  Once she graduated from Per Scholas’s Software Engineering course, however, she went into her internship role and was given the opportunity to build her knowledge base, her technical skills, and complete additional certifications through Capgemini.  

Rachel reflects, “I would definitely recommend Per Scholas’ training and Capgemini’s internship program, especially for someone that is just starting their career in tech because it will help you identify what you want to do with your career and expose you to the other aspects of being a developer.”  Rachel took advantage of every opportunity she had because of her tenacity during her training with Per Scholas and Capgemini. “I don’t think I would have been in this position so soon after graduating if it weren’t for Per Scholas, the partnerships they have, and how much they wanted us to succeed.”

Another Per Scholas learner that benefitted from Capgemini’s internship program was Kemazee Cooper.  Kemazee is currently a Support Technician Lead at Capgemini in Atlanta.  He was always interested in technology as one of the most prosperous career paths and often found himself fixing phones and computers for friends growing up.  Before applying for Per Scholas and considering a tech career, Kemazee was a social worker for a nonprofit organization and decided to start considering IT roles.  Once enrolled in Per Scholas’ training, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and as a result, training became remote. Kemazee was able to stay disciplined throughout the training and focus on his skills.  Kemazee Cooper, Per Scholas GraduateOnce he graduated, Kemazee accepted an internship with Capgemini where he learned more about the field and different aspects of technology and was eventually hired into a full-time position. “Per Scholas prepared me for situations I may see in the field as we went through a lot of scenarios, workshops, and labs,” he recalled.  Next, Kemazee plans to earn an AWS certification and aims to become a mentor for others interested in tech, options he is considering after his experience with Capgemini’s internship program.  

A model such as that with Capgemini, following training courses from Per Scholas, is one that is setting technology career-seeking individuals in Atlanta up for success.  Not only are our graduates obtaining technical skills and career development knowledge, but they are also gaining industry experience with mentors through Capgemini’s internship program and advancing economic mobility in Atlanta.

Toyota Grant Powers Dallas Cybersecurity Cohort

This July, Per Scholas’s Dallas campus will be graduating its second cohort of a new cybersecurity course, made possible by a generous $350,000 grant from Toyota, a champion Per Scholas partner since 2020. 

The course was conceptualized before the start of the Covid pandemic and, in addition to a software engineering course, was one of two new courses introduced for Dallas learners during the pandemic.  

The course has played a tremendous role in increasing the number of women being trained at the Dallas campus, a long-time goal of Stephanie Valadez, the Per Scholas Dallas Managing Director. The initial cybersecurity cohort was composed of 61% women, bringing the Dallas campus to a current total of 40% women enrolled in 2020, a significant increase from previous years and, Valadez believes, a sign of tremendous success in recruiting women — a strong departure from the typically male-dominated tech field. 

Valadez was particularly instrumental in designing the course, and partnering with the instructional team to build the course’s rigorous curriculum, which includes 15-weeks of CompTIA CYSA+ training and certification, customer service and professional development training, and more. 

In order to ensure that the curriculum of the course met the needs of employers, a roundtable discussion was held with employers in February of 2020 at the Toyota North America Headquarters in Plano, TX. At this discussion, Per Scholas reviewed the curriculum with cybersecurity executives at 10 different companies, including Toyota, AT&T, Checkpoint, Pepsi Co., and Stack Path, and talked about what they hoped to achieve with course training. 

“We had the roundtable discussion with employers to make sure that we were putting forth a strong curriculum that was going to mirror what they needed within their businesses,” Valadez said. “[The curriculum] was truly employer-informed.”

The course grant was designed to fund two cohorts of a cybersecurity course, as well as the creation of an Education Security Operations Center (ESOC) housed at the Downtown Dallas campus, which would provide the equipment and environment to mirror what learners would experience in the workplace.

Due to the pandemic, the center has not yet been built, but there are plans to complete the buildout later this year. Fortunately, course instructors Wycliffe Ikobe and Kayla Mejire (both graduates of Per Scholas Dallas themselves) have been able to leverage digital tools to mimic a similar environment and provide learners with all necessary experience.

Frederick Tsa, a graduate of the cybersecurity course’s first cohort, has been working in the cyber intelligence department of JP Morgan Chase for a few months now. Before Per Scholas, Tsa had an extensive academic background and had worked in a variety of different roles, but had no real experience with cybersecurity. During the pandemic, the company he was working at was having difficulties, and Tsa felt it was time for a change. He was interested in learning something new and pursuing cybersecurity, and he came across the Per Scholas course.

“What Per Scholas gave me was that ambition,” Tsa said. “Getting that industry certification and that training to be able to understand the basics of cybersecurity operations was something that helped me secure my job. From Per Scholas I learned a lot to the point where I was able to articulate that during the interviews and be able to make concise arguments to the point where I was offered the position.”

Athipong Yimsiriwattana, another graduate from Dallas’s first cybersecurity cohort, was working as a fleet service clerk for American Airlines until he was laid off due to the pandemic. Struggling to make ends meet, Yimsiriwattana decided to pursue a lifelong interest in technology and take Per Scholas’s free cybersecurity training course. 

The salary for cybersecurity analysts is significantly higher than what Yimsiriwattana was making in his previous role, and he is currently interviewing for roles. “I will be doing something I love doing,” Yimsiriwattana told USA Today in an interview earlier this year about his incredible experience. With support from Toyota and the grant used for our Cybersecurity course, our graduates, like Yimsiriwattana, are able to take their careers to the next level and get the certifications needed to secure a job they are passionate about.

Comcast NBCUniversal Features Per Scholas Graduate, Ampire Ndusha, in 2021 Impact Report

Per Scholas Aims to Lower New York’s Unemployment Rate with Tech Training

1,000 Careers Update – Learners are Excelling Because of You!

Dayna and Sadaf are two of hundreds of Per Scholas learners who received tech toolkits as part of our 1,000 Careers Campaign. 

Dayna Thomas Tucker, a Per Scholas learner, has personally benefited from the Raspberry Pi toolkit she received. The working mother of two has had a passion for technology and computers since she was young and would work on computers in school to try to figure out how they worked. 

Per Scholas graduate photo of Dayna

We recently connected with Dayna, who reflected, “I received the Raspberry Pi toolkit and gave me access to hands-on experience that I needed. The Raspberry Pi is Linux based and Linux was not something that I was used to. I had to rely solely on commands and learn codes.  It  was an interesting and fun way for us to learn a new system that was not like my Windows computer. It was definitely something different, but a great experience for someone like myself that has never worked with that type of system before.” Dayna is currently completing her End User Desktop Support training and is set to graduate in June with her eyes set on a technology career. 

Another example of how these tech toolkits and laptops assisted in our learner’s success is that of Sadaf Haroon, who received a Macbook for her training.  Sadaf obtained her Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science originally, but had a gap in her employment once she became a mother.  Eager to return to the industry, she looked into Per Scholas’s training as a way to get back and freshen up her skills.

Per Scholas student photo of Sadaf.

Now a Software Engineer at AT&T, Sadaf initially received multiple job offers within a week of graduation and mentioned how her training and career development at Per Scholas connected her with her current position.  Sadaf, an immigrant mother of three, was at first intimidated to resume a career in a thriving field as Tech. “Per Scholas made it easier for me to learn and now I am an earning member of my family. What can be greater than that?”

When we had the chance to chat with Sadaf, she shared, “It was a great initiative to provide the laptop.  I was able to keep up with online learning and materials covered in my course since the computer came equipped with everything I needed that was up to date according to the program. It was also exciting to pick up the device and meet according to CDC guidelines.”  

The impact of these toolkits is clear – enabling hundreds of learners to pursue training and open doors to high-growth careers in tech. 

Alumni Spotlight: Kyle Gordon (Veteran’s Day)

Alexander Mandala | Profile of a Per Scholas IT Support Graduate

Alexander was born in Malawi, one of Africa’s poorest nations. After moving to the United States to advance his education, he encountered various personal and financial troubles. Alexander needed to consider a career alternative, not just for his future, but that of his family.

Title: Senior Coordinator for Help Support

Employer: Capital One

Location: Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas

Program/Course Name: IT Support

A Dream an Ocean Over

The seventh of nine children, Alexander grew up in Africa where he and his siblings all shared responsibilities around the house. He enjoyed learning and was the first in his family to go to college. He studied education at the University of Malawi and taught geography as a high school teacher for several years. However, what he made as a teacher was not enough even though he continued to provide for his family.

As the only educated member in his family, Alexander needed to support his family the best he could. To meet the financial needs he hoped, Alexander decided to look elsewhere, beyond Malawi, beyond Africa. Education was both a career and a personal interest of his so he decided to study abroad and get his master’s degree.

“I had hoped to leverage my education to better provide for my family. To do this, I dreamed of moving to the United States and excelling in my career there.”

Educational Background before IT Training

Alexander was off to start his new life in Boston, Massachusetts where he enrolled at Brandeis University. His family had pooled all of their funds together to finance his travel to America. However, his transition to the Northeast was not easy. Even with a partial scholarship, between paying for his tuition and living expenses, he could no longer afford school and had to drop out.

Hoping to still complete his degree, he moved to Texas to live with a distant relative and enrolled at Dallas Baptist University. After one semester, he could no longer support himself nor send funds back home to his family. Once again, Alexander withdrew from college and immediately began looking for a full-time job.

Alexander working at a Dallas based nursing home prior to enrolling at Per Scholas Dallas

A Tech Genesis

For a time, Alexander worked at a local nursing home that paid $10/hour. It was barely enough to afford his basic living expenses. Although he stayed with his relative, he still needed to pay his share of rent. While attending a local church he came across a flyer for Per Scholas Dallas and their free IT certification training. Alexander always had an interest in technology. Back home in Malawi, he and his brother dabbled with operating a small computer repair business providing computer technical support to locals. The business still operates to this day!

He was skeptical about the absolutely free training offered by Per Scholas as per the flyer. “I have been paying a lot of money for education and you’re telling me that someone is going to give me IT training for free?” Fortunately, the person who placed the flyer was both a member of the church and an alum of Per Scholas. They encouraged him to attend an upcoming information session for IT Support training.

Alexander held off applying in order to build up his savings to finance himself throughout the ten weeks of training. “If I was going to do this, I wanted to make sure that I had all the support I needed. That meant quitting my job and focus only on my training. I was still paying back a loan for the semester I attended in Boston.”

At times it was challenging, especially when taking public transportation. To get to class, Alexander needed to take a 15-minute bus ride which took him to a train station where he had to travel 45 minutes to the Dallas metro area. “Students were expected to adhere to the strict attendance policy, so I had to wake up very early to make sure I was on time.” Sometimes Alexander stayed late to work with his peers to finish assignments, but for him, it was worth it!

After passing his CompTIA A+ certification exam, he was ready to find a job. He uploaded his resume whenever he could, attending networking events to get his name out in the job market. Still, there were no offers forthcoming. “It tested the best of me. I was interviewing and getting calls, but no job.”

Alexander with his cohort at their Per Scholas Dallas graduation.

Capital Gain

A month after graduating, Alexander was called in to interview at Capital One. He was selected among 20 other applicants for a contract position. Six months into the role, he was brought on board as a full-time associate working as Senior Coordinator for Help Desk Support where he currently trains and helps to onboard new hires.

“I am grateful for my experience at Per Scholas Dallas. I am able to envision a professional future for myself. I’m proud to be an alum because I also get to see other students come out of the training and find career success. Even here at Capital One, on a different team, there is another Per Scholas graduate who started out as a team leader and was soon promoted to principal coordinator. That only speaks to the caliber of the training we received from Per Scholas. We do our best, but Per Scholas is what helped us to realize and maximize our potential.”

Alex currently works at Capital One as a Senior Coordinator for Help Desk Support and continues to learn more about the field and progress his skill sets. To learn more about our IT Support course and other course offerings, visit our apply page.

He Overcame Setbacks to Thrive in Information Technology

Discovery A World Over

In 2016, the country of Cameroon erupted with a series of protests that led the country into a civil war. Tensions escalated, as did the death toll as a result of mounting conflict. Thousands of miles across the Atlantic Ocean in Boston, Massachusetts, Justice Abinyui Muh, a Global Health Corps fellow conducting research abroad at the time, bore witness to his home country’s civil uprising from a distance.

Justice was about to become one of the millions of refugees from across the globe who have been displaced due to crisis and conflict, and would have to begin the daunting task of rebuilding his life and career.

Prior to completing his fellowship, Justice worked at the Limbe Regional Hospital in Southwest Cameroon to implement a software to manage HIV data. “For many patients that I met in this hospital, it was their suffering from the disease that they were most aware of — they wanted to be healed by any means possible,” he wrote in a 2017 Medium blog post.

As political tensions grew in Cameroon, Justice worried for his family, friends, and the nation overall, and weighed his options returning home. He was an activist back in Cameroon, however, during this time, the government sought out all activists who spoke out against their policies. Although his fellowship supported him for a year, his visa was not enough to support his stay in the states beyond the tenure of his fellowship. With all that remained behind, separated by an ocean, Justice applied for asylum and sought refuge in the United States.

Efforts to fully ground himself proved challenging. After his fellowship, Justice moved to Washington, D.C. and stayed with a friend, spending his days researching jobs in the information technology sector. Even with a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics, and a Bachelor’s of Engineering in Information Technology, Justice struggled to secure a job, especially one that matched his technical experience and interests. Likening his job search to that of a “full-time job,” his savings was slowly shrinking and his approaches to finding work and starting a new life in America were proving fruitless.

“What was wrong? What am I doing in this country? How do I get a job, and what happens if I spend this money and run out of it?” Justice became greatly frustrated, not expecting his work history experiences and advanced education to be so hard to apply to prospective work opportunities.

Fueled by his frustration, Justice researched online how other immigrants might have experienced difficulty integrating into the United States and discovered Upwardly Global—a national nonprofit that helps newcomers integrate into the professional workforce. He enrolled in their courses and realized how truly different was the job market in the United States.

“I knew I needed a coach, assistance with getting a job. I learned how to present myself differently to hiring managers,” Justice reflects, learning to distinguish himself not just as someone who needed a job but as a fully competent individual with the skills and experience to do the work successfully. “Upwardly Global was an organization that bridged the gap with applying to jobs and improving my communications with recruiters.” An encouraging meeting with Bethany, his career coach at Upwardly Global who remained confident in his career prospects, proposed that Justice apply to Per Scholas to seek further specialized technical training.

Reading up on the many student success stories from Per Scholas alumni, Justice decided to enroll at Platform by Per Scholas in Dallas, Texas. He moved to Texas in January 2018 and started classes that March.

During his first week at Per Scholas, Justice was still concerned about his prospects finding a job once he completed his training. As his technical background lent well to his ability to navigate the coursework comfortably, Justice tried to focus more on establishing a strong network of friends and colleagues. He made himself available to his other classmates, helping them to understand the coursework. He even collaborated with them from time to time on how to apply for jobs once they graduated, thinking through how to review and complete applications and how to network effectively. What was most important, for both Justice and his peers, was to know that they were not alone, and that they could support one another through this process.

When Justice graduated from Per Scholas, he once again applied for jobs. This time, with an industry recognized certification in tow, combined with his newly found confidence, Justice walked into interviews and presented his best self. The calls came in, as did the offers. After what felt like a long journey, Justice was hired at a leading global professional service company. Finally, he had a job, and not just a job, but an opportunity to launch a career in his field with a Fortune 500 company.

Though he finally found employment, when asked what was next, Justice, always forward thinking, replied that he would focus on being the best he could be where he is at now, often times creating and setting work learning plans to educate himself further in the areas of quality assurance and engineering. Unfortunately, the war in Cameroon is still ongoing, and contact with his family remains nonexistent to this day. Justice might not have assumed that he would discover his best self a world over, but he chose to discover himself where he is at now, and that alone is a process of which to be proud.


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