Ten years ago, Hector Avellaneda felt lost and feared what was to become of him. He figured he had two options: “You can become a thug or a soldier.” Those seemed to be the only career paths available for teens at his high school — join a gang or join the armed services. Hector figured he’d join the services as soon as possible. If that meant leaving high school before he graduated, that was okay. No one in his family had ever graduated from high school before. It was no big deal.
Then, something happened that not only changed Hector’s life; it changed the path of his whole family. He met Rafael Alvarez, CEO and founder of Genesys Works. Hector didn’t really understand what Rafael was trying to tell him, but he figured if this professional person was going to take the time to talk with him, he might as well hear him out.
This conversation eventually led to Hector enrolling in the Genesys Works program. The job training provided by Genesys Works and the professional internship he got through the program opened his eyes. “Never in my wildest dreams did I think that I’d set foot in a Houston skyscraper as a professional,” said Hector during a recent speaking engagement. But when I did, it completely transformed the perception I had of my life.”
Because of his new perspective, Hector went on to attend Texas A&M and now works as a program manager at Hewlett-Packard. His younger sister just graduated from college, and his younger brother just got accepted to college. Both of them are part of the Genesys Works program.
“I’m the first in my family to graduate high school, first to go to college, first to get a professional job,” says Hector. “Now college isn’t an unattainable dream in my family; it’s a requirement.”
From that first class of 10 students, working with one corporate partner, Genesys Works has grown to work with over 600 students and over 100 companies in three cities. And soon a fourth city will be added. In 2011 alone, the number of students placed in jobs increased by 54%, in one of the worst economic environments in recent memory. All of this has landed Genesys Works on the Forbes “Impact 30” list — among the top 30 social enterprises in the world.
The reason this program works is that it’s a win-win for those headed for under or unemployment and for the Fortune 1000 corporations who end up hiring them. A Genesys Works internship can open up professional career possibilities to students in low-income areas. Once they see that there is a better way, they are excited and motivated. With proper guidance, they move away from the path of an unskilled laborer to a skilled professional. On the corporate side, these companies are able to help well-motivated workers reach their potential while also helping the corporate bottom line. Genesys Works interns contribute necessary, value-added work to corporations at a cost well below the market rate for full time workers.
Adjusting to a corporate environment can be a culture shock for many underprivileged youth. Genesys Works eases the transition by providing students with instruction on how to meld into the corporate world. With Genesys Works supporting them, 95% of these students, many of whom wouldn’t have finished high school, go on to college. Many of the corporations for whom they intern invite them back for further internship opportunities as they go through college.
It is Genesys Works’ goal to not just change the lives and career paths of young people like Hector, but to change the perceptions of the communities in which they live. Genesys Works strives to create an atmosphere of hope. By showing these communities that there is another way to move up in the world, by showing them it is possible to enter a professional career, pockets of under employment can be eliminated before they begin.
The Genesys Works program develops a new workforce that’s motivated and ready to take on the corporate world. And as interns prove their value, they help shape a corporate world that’s ready to take them in.