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Partnering with ProJeCt of Easton on English Literacy and Job Training
December 06, 2023

Gabriela Donofrio and Jose Contreras at St. Luke’s Easton Campus.

Gabriela Donofrio came to be a St. Luke’s Environmental Services Aide after fleeing Venezuela, where she worked as an economic researcher before emigrating to the United States despite not knowing how to speak or read English.

Thanks to ProJeCt of Easton, she diligently works on improving her English in hopes of making a better future here in the United States. Thanks to a community initiative as part of St. Luke’s 150th anniversary, ProJeCt of Easton was able to connect Gabriela with an employment opportunity at St. Luke’s Easton Campus.

St. Luke’s kicked off its 150th anniversary celebration in May 2022 with partner schools and nonprofits working to make a positive impact in the local communities. The Anderson and Easton campuses provide support to ProJeCt of Easton for career mentoring and workforce development initiatives. 

The partnership centers on St. Luke’s providing potential career opportunities to interested and qualified candidates from ProJeCt of Easton who also successfully complete pre-employment requirements. ProJeCt of Easton prepares its students for the job market through workforce development, English as a Second Language, and General Educational Development (GED) training.

Over the past year of this partnership, St. Luke’s has hired 12 students from ProJeCt of Easton in a variety of roles at both the Anderson and Easton campuses. 

“We piloted this initiative in November of 2022,” said Jaclyn Hudak, Community Health Liaison for St. Luke’s Anderson, Warren and Easton Campuses. 

Sharon Watson is another success story from ProJeCt of Easton. A grandmother, she was working at two warehouse jobs in addition to taking classes at ProJeCt of Easton to achieve her GED, when Erin Roman, the Director of Programs at ProJeCt of Easton, helped her connect with St. Luke’s.

“Our case managers help our students fill out online job applications and assist them with navigating the process,” Roman said. “The St. Luke’s partnership has  been absolutely amazing for us to give our students not just the opportunity for employment, but the opportunity for a career.”

So it has been for Sharon, who  now works just one job instead of two, in Environmental Services at St. Luke's Anderson Campus.

“It’s phenomenal,” Sharon said. “It’s a great opportunity. I went from working every weekend with two jobs, and now I work the middle shift and have weekends off. In all my years of working, I always had to work weekends.”

One of Sharon’s new goals because of the opportunity at St.  Luke’s is to obtain certification in phlebotomy in order to advance her career.

“It’s such a great opportunity, where they can say these are my goals, this is where I am at in my education, even if that job may be outside their comfort zone,” Hudak said.

St. Luke’s schedules Human Resources to speak at ProJeCt of Easton to let them know about the partnership and career opportunities. To provide additional inspiration, St. Luke’s arranged for Dr. Israel Zighelboim and his wife, Valeska Zighelboim, Registered Nurse, to visit ProJeCt of Easton and share their journey of coming to America and successfully working for St. Luke’s.

“This is a wonderful partnership that benefits both ProJeCt of Easton and St. Luke’s,” Roman said. “They come in and talk about the opportunities available at St. Luke’s, and in turn they get great employees who are inspired to make a better life for themselves and their families.”

“I have four of the ProJeCt of Easton hires on my staff,” said Robert Johnson, the Facilities Director at St. Luke’s Easton Campus. “They are all great employees, hard workers. English is their second language, and they are making great strides learning it. One of them was an attorney in Colombia. I believe in them. They are part of the Easton community, and we are proud to offer jobs to people living in our community.”

Some hires, like Gabriela, are learning English to better their opportunities in the United States. 

“I have been at St. Luke’s for seven months,” Gabriela said. “In the Spring of 2023, St. Luke’s Human Resources and Community Health came here to ProJeCt of Easton  and talked about employment and career opportunities. I applied to St. Luke’s East Campus  was hired. I feel really good and welcomed here. St. Luke’s is a really great place to work.”

Gabriela hopes to improve her English so that she can pursue professional growth and is so inspired by the hospital setting that she believes nursing may be in her future. 

“I have a lot of opportunities to build a career here, but the most important thing is to be more fluent in English first,” she said. “You come here and see the good work St. Luke’s is doing in the community and you get inspired.”

Johnson said the partnership with ProJeCt of Easton is something that is special and has been a focus of reaching back into the local community to create positivity and opportunity.

“We quite literally heard from the Easton community that they wanted to see organizations  hire people from within their own neighborhoods, and we are proud to say St. Luke’s is doing that today,” Hudak said.