Ellen’s Story

There is a family connection in Ellen’s success story. In Fall 2009, Ellen began the SJI Office Occupations program, following in the footsteps of two of her cousins, who were both graduates of SJI’s Welding program, and her mom, who was a recent graduate of the Office program. She had watched her family members learn new skills and find success and employment through SJI, and it motivated her to think about the program, too.

At that time, Ellen had recently spent several years working at home raising her three young children; prior to that, she had worked for five years as a paralegal. Being out of an administrative position for some time required that she brush up and enhance her skill set to compete for a good job with a family-supporting wage and benefits.

“I knew I wanted to make a move out of the paralegal field, but after three years out of the workforce, I knew my computer skills needed to be updated – so I wanted a program that would help me build those skills back up,” Ellen said.

“And the skills I gained in the SJI program were the right skills — what I learned in class I use on-the-job. A real key was that the SJI instructors and staff really taught us about responsibility, being accountable and managing our time well. Those things are so important, and SJI really helped me to get on track with that area.”

The Office Occupations program is a rigorous one — and Ellen was determined to meet all the challenges of the program. She completed her internship with Swedish Medical Center, where she gained skills in a dynamic internship role that rotated through several positions, giving her a broad array of on-the-job experience. Directly following completion of her internship, Swedish hired Ellen on full-time as a patient services representative in Spring 2010. Last November, Ellen earned a promotion to a senior patient services representative position in the Neurosciences department, where she truly enjoys her work, her work environment and being the first point-of-contact for patients with brain and spine conditions.

“The people that work at Swedish are just great — it’s probably what I like best about my job. There’s so much opportunity to grow here — as employees we have the opportunity to shadow different positions within the organization, and we can even sometimes watch surgeries and learn more about the healthcare field.”

Ellen plans to continue her education and earn a degree in public health. She’ll return to South Seattle Community College for her first two years, and then transfer to a four-year college to complete her degree. She had a good experience attending SSCC through the SJI program, finding the campus and staff to be supportive and knowledgeable.

“My plan is to go back to school to get my degree in public health, and work towards a management position in a healthcare clinic, like clinic administrator or director. I realized I really enjoy administrative work, so that – combined with working in the healthcare field where I can interact and help people — is a great career fit for me. I’ll be able to take advantage of my employer’s tuition assistance program to help me go back to college, get more education, and be able to grow into more opportunities in the field.”

Ellen’s co-worker comments highlight the beneficial role Ellen’s positive attitude plays on-the-job: “I have been working with Ellen for almost a year and it has been great! Ellen works very hard everyday and carries herself with great poise while managing to maintain patience for even the most frustrating or difficult situations. What I admire the most about Ellen is her compassion for others and how she genuinely cares for those around her.”

Ellen’s story also showcases the positive role the SJI program can play in helping our city’s residents make the important connections between skills, employer partners, good jobs, continued college attainment, and, simply: opportunity. She’s encouraging for anyone who might be considering the program:

“If you’re out there thinking about the program, even if you’re a little off-track in some areas of your life: SJI will help you to get back on track in such a supportive way. As long as you’re willing to take the support and bring the determination, I don’t see how anyone could not be successful at the program. SJI covers the hard skills, but also the soft skills — and they are in contact with the employers, so we’re getting the right preparation and connections. I would — and do — definitely encourage others to consider the program. It really does open doors.”