From Client to Advocate: Samuel's inspiring Journey
May 30 2023
Samuel arrived in Harrisonburg on January 23, 2020, but it was not a direct journey. Samuel was born in Eritrea. In 2015 at 13 years old, Samuel and four friends travelled from Eritrea to Ethiopia where they were met and welcomed by his uncle. He lived in Ethiopia for four years until he left for the United States with his uncle.
Upon their arrival, neither Samuel nor his uncle spoke English. Besides the language barrier, Samuel had a hearing challenge and there was a long wait to receive hearing aids. At 18, Samuel had aged out of the public school system even though he had a strong desire to complete high school. But with the support and resources available through CWS Harrisonburg, Samuel made a plan for success. He applied for Flatwood JobCorps, which is a government program that offers free education and vocational training for young adults.
When everything shut down during COVID, Samuel was not able to apply to Flatwood JobCorps. His opportunities to begin again seemed to be put at a standstill. Although his plans were put on hold, Samuel’s desire to learn, work, and achieve his goals was undeterred. He registered for Eastern Mennonite University’s Intensive English Program for the fall semester of 2020. In August of 2020 Samuel received a bike from a local partner program called Bikes for Neighbors (formerly Bikes for Refugees) to commute to his classes. He continued EMU’s program throughout the spring, summer, and fall 2021 semesters. Every day, 4 days a week, Samuel rode his bike to English classes, all while working at the same time. His determination didn’t stop there.
He met a friend at EMU who was also interested in Job Corps. Both were finally able to go to JobCorps April of 2022. A third CWS client from Harrisonburg also joined them at Flatwood JobCorps and the three became close friends. They trained as firefighters together through Flatwood JobCorps, a program run by the local Forest Service. Samuel was sent out of state with a crew to fight raging wildfires during the summer of 2022. He served as a firefighter at 5 different fires in 4 states. Along with firefighting, he became well-versed in electrical work, and will soon head to Miami for advanced electrical training with JobCorps: a specialized program for only a few that excel in the trade.
Samuel’s dreams of graduating high school also recently came true, thanks to his hard work and dedication. This past month, Samuel received his high school diploma. He said, “I just want to say to those like me who came from Africa or anywhere in the world, I would like to advise them to study in JobCorps. It’s a good choice for them. And I will say thank you to Rebecca (CWS Youth and Employment Programs Coordinator) for applying for me to JobCorps, and to all my teachers.”
Samuel’s persistence and dedication to his goals serves as an inspiration to all of us at CWS and the Harrisonburg/Rockingham County community and we are so excited to see what he accomplishes in the future.