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An inside look at Way Finders’ Competitive Integrated Employment Services (CIES)

February 2, 2023

“I’m trying to get everything together,” says Janishka Alvarado of Springfield, a mother of three children aged 7, 9, and 11. “To be stable.” 

Janishka linked up with Way Finders’ Competitive Integrated Employment Services (CIES) in 2022 at the suggestion of the state’s Department of Transitional Assistance. The program is open to those who are receiving Transitional Aid for Families with Dependent Children and who are unemployed (or underemployed) but want to land a job and establish a career pathway. 

“Janishka’s dominant language is Spanish,” says Job Developer Erika Serrano, who joined us for a quick interview. “If it’s OK, if she needs my help, I’ll serve as translator.” 

When asked about her experience with program, Janishka highlights her relationship with Erika. “I love everything, everything. I love Erika. The way she helped me, the way she hears me, the way she talks to me about what may be best for me. She knows everything, I love the way she works with me.”  

When clients first join CIES, staff do a lot of listening—to uncover their career hopes—and connecting of dots—to identify a clear path forward.  

“We look at their background, we look at their interests, we look at what barriers may be in the way of those,” says Erika. “And we run with it! They lead, we follow. We’re there to follow and support our clients. It’s their life and we’re here to help them along their journey.” 

For Janishka, her love of cosmetology—manicures, eyelash extensions, body sculpting—led her to pursue the eight-week Nail Tech Course offered through Wilbraham’s Monarch School of Cosmetology. Way Finders picked up the tab ($2,000) for the 100-hour course, which Janishka completed in fall 2022.  

She earned her nail tech license and continues to practice what she learned with her daughters. “I love doing my own nails and my daughters’ nails. Ombre, marble, ballerina, I love it.” 

“I don’t know what any of that is!” laughs Erika, who began with Way Finders in March 2022. “But it has been a privilege working with Janishka, she was one of my first clients. She’s had obstacles and personal barriers in her path. Despite that, she’s extremely motivated, she’s getting herself prepared one step at a time. She’s doing really well, she’s really open to any referrals we suggest. We’re excited to continue to work together.” 

Janishka, who is currently job seeking, has completed two workshops offered by Way Finders—Credit Success and First-time Homebuyers. She hopes to buy a home one day, and dreams of opening her own business.  

“I’m so happy because I feel comfortable now, I feel prepared,” says Janishka.  

“And she said she feels wiser,” Erika adds, translating. “And, privileged, almost? Is that what you mean?” 

“I feel so good,” says Janishka. “And I feel grateful about that.”