When Alex lost his job as a manager for a pizza company, he knew he needed to find work fast. While he’d been working since he was fourteen, the Covid-19 pandemic made the income he relied on to support himself and help his family more necessary than ever. When a friend told him about Juma, Alex saw an opportunity to make some quick money. He didn’t realize that he was also taking a step toward a bright future with a supportive community who would help him to achieve his goals.
“When I first started at Juma I didn’t think I’d be here long; I was going to look for another job,” recalls Alex. “But as I got to know the people I realized I wanted to stay. The people made a big impact. Every other place I’ve worked hasn’t had this camaraderie or positive energy.” Over time, co-workers became friends and the more Alex worked, the more he found himself excited about Juma’s training in addition to the job.
An aspect of Juma’s program which especially appealed to Alex was the flexibility. Juma’s youth-first approach prioritizes growth, giving young people like Alex who have many commitments a place to earn a paycheck while also working toward their future goals. “I’m in college full-time and I’m an athlete so I spend four to five hours a day training; it’s a hard and busy life. Sometimes I don’t have time to eat. But with Juma, it’s really easy for me to pick up shifts when I do have time. Having a job that’s so flexible allows me to live this lifestyle where I’m not solely building my life around work but I’m still getting hours and getting paid so I can support myself and help my family.”
At Juma, Alex has deepened his skills in customer service but is most thankful for the opportunities he’s had to learn professional and interpersonal communication. Through getting to know his co-workers, he’s found that talking about his own challenges can take the loneliness out of the experience. He’s also found that doing the same for his co-workers is rewarding.
“Hearing from other people about their backgrounds–when people get comfortable talking–you get to know more about people and it makes you respect them more,”says Alex. “I would talk to people [at Juma] who I wouldn’t expect to have anything in common with and then learn about the things they go through. Hearing about them gives me a better perspective and also helps me to be grateful for what I have and to want to do more for others.”
In the future, Alex hopes to finish the bachelor’s degree he’s currently working toward at the University of Washington and find a career where he can earn enough to have a comfortable home for him and his family. For other young people in a similar situation, Alex advises them to take the plunge and apply at Juma if they’re looking for a great place to grow.
“I wish Juma had been my first job because I think my career would’ve been off to a way smoother start if I was in an environment as structured and as supportive as Juma,” Alex explains. “I had to do everything by myself when I first started working. So for high school kids who are in the position I was, Juma would be the best place to start. From things as simple as opening a savings account and just learning how work operates–Juma is the perfect place to start and learn customer service and communication and teamwork.”