‘I Knew I was About to Start Something Important:’ ESOL and IT Program Alum Lucia Mendoza Committed to Chasing Opportunities
Lucia Mendoza is determined to make the most of every situation.
After completing Catholic Charities’ El Centro ESOL and IT programs last year, Lucia currently works as a cybersecurity fellow for the City of Boston’s Department of Innovation and Technology.
“I never thought I’d be able to do something like this,” she said. “Catholic Charities can change lives. I know because it changed mine.”
Born and raised in Mexico, Lucia immigrated to the United States in July 2020 to be with her now-husband, a researcher at Tufts Medical Center.
Having worked as a security investigator in Mexico, and earned her bachelor’s degree in Business Administration, Lucia was eager to start working, but had to wait for a work permit, all while in the midst of a pandemic.
“I wanted to meet new people, but I needed to improve my English,” she said. “I would go for walks in the parks near my apartment or go to coffee shops hoping to talk to people, but everyone was wearing masks, so it was hard to interact.”
At that time, Lucia helped out at The Blue Frog, a family-owned bakery in her Jamaica Plain neighborhood that was working hard to help the community during the pandemic. “I have always loved baking,” she said. “The owner is from Canada, so he knew waiting for the immigration process could be hard. It was only a few hours during the weekends, but I was happy to do something useful.”
One Sunday, Lucia asked a fellow employee at the bakery if they knew of any affordable ESOL programs in the area, which is how she discovered Catholic Charities Boston’s El Centro Program in Jamaica Plain.
“I was feeling this good feeling,” she said. “I knew I was about to start something important.”
Lucia was placed into El Centro’s ESOL program, where she quickly became a standout student and voracious learner.
“I wanted to learn everything,” she said. “I watched the news in English. I read in English. As soon as I could, I got a job at Trader Joe’s where I could interact with customers. I tried to learn more about how people talk and act here.”
Lucia always dreamed of studying cybersecurity. When she discussed her next steps with her El Centro advisor, she was excited to find out that Catholic Charities IT program could make that dream come true. She enrolled in El Centro IT and was subsequently introduced to her current fellowship through the Agency’s partnership with the City of Boston’s Department of Innovation and Technology, where she’s learning how to analyze complex cybersecurity data, utilize security software, collaborate with new people, and apply what was learned in the cybersecurity training in a real-world setting.
“I cannot describe how thankful I am to feel supported by the community,” she said. “The program allowed me to enter the professional world. I am so grateful to everyone who was involved, who gives people the chance to grow.”
Learn more about El Centro’s ESOL and IT program here.