Meet JobNet clients Beethoven and Lidianny, who stand as testament that a mental health condition is no barrier to achieving dreams
The Child Center of NY began in 1953 as a single children’s counseling center. Though we have grown to become a multiservice organization that serves the whole person in ways that meet the times, a commitment to mental health remains at the heart of everything we do.
One program that embodies our growth, mental health focus, and care for the whole person is JobNet.
An internship program for young people with a mental health condition, JobNet connects participants to internships with community partners. Participants earn a stipend, learn to manage their finances, and explore the world of work. High school equivalency preparation, vocational assessments, evidence-based job readiness workshops, and supportive counseling are also part of the mix, and key to what JobNet Youth Advocate Jessica Rivera calls the “magic” of JobNet.
“JobNet is a place where adolescents who feel like they don’t have enough knowledge or skills to accomplish any vocational or educational goals find that they can do just that,” Jessica says. “We give youth who thought they didn’t have anyone to help them the support to achieve their dreams.”
Clients often come to JobNet through other programs at The Child Center.
Beethoven, 19, was referred to JobNet by his therapist, Sandra Mede, at The Child Center’s Jamaica Family Wellness Center.
“I started therapy in January 2020,” the recent high school graduate recalls. “Therapy helped me with depression and anxiety, which I’d been diagnosed with. It’s been a ride! Miss Sandra helped me through a lot. She helped me figure out how to calm my depression and anxiety and also build confidence in myself. She got me in the habit of remembering things I’ve already done. One big thing is that I always said I’d never be able to get my high school diploma. Then I did it.”
Beethoven already had received his GED when he started JobNet. He had expressed to Miss Sandra that he wanted to explore career and education opportunities. He just didn’t know how or where to start. That’s when Miss Sandra recommended JobNet.
“Beethoven came to JobNet kind of stuck,” Jessica says. “We helped him see his soft skills and take concrete steps to make the most of his potential.”
Beethoven sees it similarly: “I didn’t know how to make a resume. I didn’t think I had any skills to put on it. I had so many experiences I didn’t know I had. Jessica helped me find the skills and tell me what they’re called. One of them was ‘words per minute.’ I had 90 words per minute.”
He enrolled in JobNet’s career readiness curriculum, aka Career Club. Upon his completion, the JobNet team placed Beethoven in a paid 4-month internship with Child Center community partner Queens Public Library, where he worked in the cyber center, using his computer skills to help patrons. When the four months were up, Beethoven’s supervisor offered him a permanent position.
“[Central Library Manager] Mahendra [Indarjit], my supervisor, said, ‘I want you here.’ It made me feel so good,” Beethoven says.
Beethoven is now officially employed at Queens Public Library and exploring higher education programs that will help him achieve his goal of working in the video editing industry.
“I like 3D modeling, and I’m looking at trade schools for that,” Beethoven says. “My goal is to end up in a graphic design career, and not just have any job. I want to get to the point where I don’t have to worry about my financial situation. That’s my goal.”
In addition to helping Beethoven hone marketable “hard” skills, JobNet and the internship experience helped Beethoven develop interpersonal skills, notes JobNet Transitional Facilitator Samantha Gabriel.
“Jessica met with Beethoven when his anxiety was affecting his progress in the program and gave him the support he needed,” Samantha says. “The team also helped him with personal financial skills. And, in accordance with The Child Center’s whole family approach, we assisted Beethoven’s family in obtaining documentation for financial and rental assistance.”
Lidianny (who goes by “Lilly”), 17, is another JobNet participant who was a client in therapy at our Jamaica Family Wellness Center. While Lilly was a natural with interpersonal skills, they also had been diagnosed with depression.
Similar to what happened with Beethoven, Lilly’s therapist, Maricela Romero, CASAC, referred them to JobNet when they expressed interest in earning money and pursuing career goals. Lilly attended and completed Career Club, and the JobNet team assisted them in creating a work portfolio, which included a resume and career assessments, and with completing working papers, getting a photo ID, and filing taxes. This helped Lilly with the short-term goal of being able to apply for internships, and it also helped them gain experience in how to think through logistical processes.
The JobNet team connected Lilly to an internship with local partner Young World, a clothing store, which was a good fit for Lilly’s people skills. This was Lilly’s first legal work experience and gave them the opportunity to build their resume. Equally important, it gave them an opportunity to succeed and recognize their capabilities.
Lilly was able to complete the internship, even through a brief hospital stay. Since The Child Center is a multiservice organization that works in partnership both within and outside of the agency, the JobNet team was able to be part of a supportive network for Lilly and worked with the hospital (Northwell Health) and Maricela to ensure Lilly’s goals and needs were met.
The experience gave Lilly confidence to begin searching for competitive employment after the internship with Young World wrapped up, and they found work at a catering hall—another position that draws on her people skills.
“I love it!” Lilly says. “I like not just the money, but also the experience of being around different people. I love the music, the parties, interacting with people. … I’m a very sweet person, and my mom says people can tell! I give to my customers, and they give back to me… I keep tables nice and clean, and if anyone needs anything, I help them out. … I’m seeing that if you go through one door, it leads to an even bigger open door.”
Lilly will be entering their senior year of high school in September, and they’re planning for the next door to lead to college, where they hope to major in history or psychology. “Maybe a college out of state,” Lilly says. “I want the whole college experience!”
And when they’re ready to start those college applications?
“We’ll be right here,” Jessica says. “We help fill out the applications, get letters of recommendations, plan all the steps… once a client, always a client.”
“Lidianny is someone who faced a lot of hurdles to get to where they are now,” Jessica adds. “To see Lilly talk about their goals so proudly and know that these hurdles were just bumps in the road is amazing to see.”
Jessica expresses similar pride in Beethoven’s progress. “For Beethoven, it would have to be seeing how confident he is in knowing that he can achieve his career dream,” Jessica says. “Beethoven was someone who felt like he didn’t have the capability to even work because of his lack of skills. Being in our program helped him realize how many skills he has. Seeing him seek furthering his education because of conversations he’s had with staff is probably one of the things I’m most proud of.”
“Sometimes we are the only people in a client’s life who hasn’t given up on them,” Samantha says. “We work with them on achievable short- and long-term goals around completing school and career development. It’s amazing when they realize they have achieved them—and that these achievements are just the beginning.”
Jessica emphasizes that JobNet is a program for young people of any ability or confidence level. They just have one thing in common: the hope of finding who they can be in their future career. “The rest is something JobNet can help them figure out,” she says.
JobNet Program Director Paulette Diggs-Beji, LCSW-R, is proud of Beethoven and Lilly and the team members who helped them along the way. “I believe the magic of JobNet lies within its small, cohesive interdisciplinary team. We each come from different disciplines and possess diverse skill sets, which aid clients’ overall progress. We focus on the social, the emotional, and the vocational success of our participants. Both Beethoven and Lidianny are examples of this, and of what’s possible with a skilled and dedicated team.”