Kenia Guevara was 2 years old when her family emigrated to the United States from El Salvador. Growing up in Frederick County, she was subjected to racial slurs, told she would never amount to anything and told to go back to her native country.
But the 2020 Millbrook High School graduate wasn’t deterred by the haters. She used their negativity to fuel her dream of someday starting her own business and building a home.
“It made me work harder to become what I am now,” Guevara said.
On Friday morning, the 20-year-old took the first step toward turning her dream into reality by being one of six graduates from Virginia Career Works‘ first Building Maintenance Technician Program. Even before she stepped to the front of the Eagles Boardroom in the Our Health complex to accept her commencement certificate, Guevara, just like her five classmates, had already been offered a good-paying job utilizing the skills she learned from the six-week course.
Virginia Career Works is a Richmond-based employment-assistance agency with a Winchester office located at 419 N. Cameron St., on the Our Health campus.
“We are in the Shenandoah Valley service region to provide workforce programs and help people get jobs,” said Sharon Johnson, CEO of Virginia Career Works’ Shenandoah Valley Workforce Development Board that includes Winchester, Frederick County and Clarke County.
Bonnie Zampino, manager of Virginia Career Works’ Winchester center, said the Building Maintenance Technician Program is an excellent example of that effort.
The program got rolling after the owner of two major apartment complexes in the Winchester area spent 18 months looking to hire someone to do building maintenance at his properties but couldn’t find a qualified employee. He eventually shared his plight with Zampino’s office.