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Wednesday, November 8, 2023

From Serving His Country to the Classroom: Antonio De Sousa Lobo

Antonio De Sousa Lobo, Director of Workforce Development for Catholic Charities Boston, lives in gratitude every day – for his wife, his four-year-old son, and for the opportunity to work at an organization that gives him a sense of purpose. We spoke with Antonio about his journey from serving alongside the U.S. military as a member of the Cape Verdean military to serving others through educational and job opportunities.

A Unique Opportunity to Serve

A native of the Cape Verdean Island of Sal, Antonio joined the Cape Verdean military in 1996 at age 23. He was selected for a special U.S. government program to learn English in the United States and teach fellow soldiers back in Cape Verde.

For 3 years, Antonio took classes at the Defense Language Institute English Language Center alongside 500 ESOL students from 80 different countries––an experience that he said enhanced his cultural awareness and now allows him to deeply empathize with the students he works with at Catholic Charities.

“I had never been out of my country before,” said Antonio. “My entire world was an island, where we surfed, and our days were slow. I had never seen beyond this world.”

In the years that followed, Antonio returned to Cape Verde and began teaching English classes to fellow soldiers and officers in commanders, eventually opening a full-time language laboratory. Later, , Antonio worked closely with the U.S embassy and military and provided services to several departments of the U.S. government, including the Presidency and airport security in the in the wake of 9/11. Through these experiences, he said he developed a deep appreciation for American culture and ideals.

From Student to Instructor

In 2006, Antonio made the decision to start his life over in the U.S., setting out to build a life for himself in Boston and working a variety of jobs to make ends meet. From washing cars to waitering to working at a marina, Antonio did it all. Still, something was missing.

“I prayed, ‘God, please give me a break. Give me an opportunity.’ I never gave up. I never let anything going wrong push me down. I had God on my side.”

After applying to 22 English as Second Language (ESL) job positions, Antonio was offered for a part-time job that required temporarily substituting for a teacher 7.5 hours a week at an ESL Center in Dorchester. It was a small door, but Antonio saw opportunity on the other side. After the temporary role ended, the organization gave Antonio an exceptional review. That led to three more part-time jobs. “I was working from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., but I didn’t mind because I was doing what I loved,” he said.

In 2015, Antonio secured a job teaching level one ESOL classes at Catholic Charities’ El Centro Center, where he went on to teach multiple classes before being promoted to a counselor in 2020, right before the pandemic and in March 2023 he was again promoted to his current role as Director of Workforce Development. Recently, Antonio had the opportunity to walk a young single mother of three through the Agency’s adult education options.

After learning that the Catholic Charities Nursing Assistant/Home Health Aide program is now no cost, she signed up immediately. A few weeks later, Antonio swung by the classroom, noticing a significant change in the woman’s face.

“Her eyes had this look – it was a look of hope. Working at an organization like Catholic Charities nurtures your humanity. It gives you the opportunity to cultivate the good in you, and to fill your heart with light,” he said.

Learn more about Catholic Charities Boston’s Adult Education and Workforce Development programs here.

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