East Harlem jobs program helping find essential work for those in need during pandemic

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EAST HARLEM, Manhattan — A job program based in East Harlem has helped over 100 New Yorkers get essential jobs on the front lines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organization, called Strive, helps place people in jobs and create careers, and for some, that’s needed now more than ever.

“I was just incarcerated for four years. Strive was a boost that changed my life,” said Che McCoy from Queens.

A year ago, McCoy’s life was completely different. But he said he was ready for a change and credited the program with helping him make it.

McCoy is now the maintenance supervisor for a women’s homeless shelter in Queens and has a whole new outlook on life.

“I feel proud. Six months ago, I was incarcerated, and now I’m overseeing a staff and I’m keeping people safe during this COVID-19 situation,” said McCoy.

It was McCoy’s parole officer who connected him to Strive.

The executive director, Lakythia Ferby, said the program has placed over a hundred people with jobs during the coronavirus pandemic.

The program focuses on training for essential jobs, like those in the medical field and in construction. And it also helps with life issues too.

“We are meeting people where they are. People who are coming into the program, we are making sure they have food. You can’t take a class if you can’t eat,” said Ferby.

It’s a 12 week program in the classroom. Now, due to the coronavirus pandemic began, there’s a more flexible class schedule, and most training is now done virtually.

They lend computers to students who need them.

They help with little things, like if a student needs to how to a tie a tie for a job interview

And they help with big things, like helping students get child care or learn to how to apply for food stamps.

Erika Orgaz moved to New York City from Mexico two years ago and was unemployed six months ago.

She is now a site safety supervisor for a construction company in Brooklyn, building affordable housing, which is considered essential.

“I was clueless. I didn’t know where to start. It changed my life,” said Orgaz.

Ferby said since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, demand for their programs is up, with more than 1,000 students currently taking their classes.

They depend on federal funds and private donations to keep going, and they are still taking new students.

For more information visit strive.org.

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