The resilience and creativity of the human spirit is clearly what turns our world around (in more ways than one!)

Take Jose (pronounced Hose-Eh) Rodringues, for instance. He had one of those sought-after, stable jobs. For over 20 years he worked in the warehouse for Oshawa Foods. His daily work involved the receipt, shuffling, storage and shipping of product that we all value so much in our grocery stores.

This was a job Jose could count on and it sure helped him take care of his responsibilities on the home front.

When Oshawa Foods sold out to Sobey’s, 48-year-old Jose and hundreds of his co-workers were considered redundant (who thought up that word?)

And that was Jose’s defining moment. Work as he knew it was over.

And fate took over from there. He was on his way to The Career Centre in the Bayfield Mall. It’s here that employment counsellors listen, offer ideas and avenues, and plug people into workshops and activities that will help in their job search.

But Jose didn’t find The Career Centre. Quite by accident he walked into the Learning Centre in the mall and ran smack dab into Hanne Nielsen, principal at the Learning Centre. She listened to his story. She also watched his face, paid attention to how he expressed himself, took note of his attitude, and made a life-changing comment to him.

Jose had said he thought he should finish grade 12 and get his high school diploma before looking for another job. He realized that so many employers won’t hire anyone who doesn’t have a high school diploma as their educational base. It makes sense, too, because while the initial job might not need grade 12, the ability to promote an employee is really negatively impacted without the diploma.

Anyway, Hanne saw in Jose something that shouted out “more” to her. Together with Jose’s employment counsellor Kathy Low, she structured an educational package that took one year and gave Jose not only grade 12 English but the rest of his credits. They were wrapped into Cisco Certified Networking course which was the beginning of Jose’s enthusiasm for computer technology.

In one year, Jose completed four semesters of courses and two weeks ago he graduated with the Ontario Principals Leadership Award. He has found teaching skills he never knew he had. And now he’s taking an additional course that will certify him as a Microsoft Professional.

Sounds easy, but when Jose walked into the Learning Centre, he’d been away from a classroom for 22 years. He’d never used a computer. Technology for him was behind the wheel of a forklift or at the shipping/receiving computer monitor. He found the most difficult part of his Learning Centre experience was keeping up with the teenagers, and those in their early 20’s who are used to computer technology. He had to stay determined, be patient with his steeper learning curve and work harder to learn what he learned. On the positive side, he could use his work experience to see immediate applications for what he was learning in the classroom. The aconyms that many of us take for granted were foreign terms for him. Configurations stymied him.

As Jose looks back on his very busy year since life at Oshawa Foods ended, his biggest surprise is that he could take on the challenge and complete it. In the process, he found his self confidence growing. He said he knew could do something other than warehouse work, but he never tried because of lack of confidence in himself.

He has a few weeks left and when he’s finished, he’ll be able to install, design and troubleshoot computers in any kind of network. He’s hoping to develop a number of customers and work for each individually.

“Right now, that’s a dream,” he says softly.

Maybe dreams come true.

Thanks, Jose. Thanks, Hanne for recognizing this special talent. And thanks, Maryann Hefkey for teaching Jose the computer skills that will make such a difference in his life.

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