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Zenaida's Story

The First in Her Family to Have a Real Career
July 15, 2021

Zenaida was a stay-at-home mom. She and her husband built a tight-knit family, but with four children -- an 18-year-old stepson, 13 and three-year-old sons, and baby girl, Zophie, 9 months -- it was difficult to find childcare and fulfilling work outside the home for Zenaida.

Her husband, Antonio, was working two jobs to make ends meet. He wanted his wife to have her dream, too. But, how? Coming here from Mexico, Zenaida’s life was challenging. She had to grow up fast and learn English to help the whole family. She saw how hard her parents worked at the most difficult jobs. Her father worked long hours in construction, and her mom worked in the laundry area of a hospital and cleaned houses to put food on the table.

"My good-hearted parents thought, ‘we’ll get a job, and our kids will get a better job.’

My brother has autism and stopped talking. When he started therapy, I had to be the translator, filling out the paperwork. My mom had another baby my senior year in high school. As the oldest of four, I stayed home while they worked.

It was hard to make a life."

Zenaida didn’t think her dream could come true. She always wanted to be a nurse or work in the medical field. She says it’s just ingrained in her to take care of other people.

"I am so proud to be a pharmacy technician. I always wanted to be in the medical field, but doors weren’t always open for me.

My life felt stuck before I became a pharmacy technician through Goodwill’s Good Careers Academy. I wanted to go to school to help my husband not have two jobs. (He still does, just not the night job.) I was home, pregnant and lonely. I didn’t know where to start. Our three-year old son, Roman, is special needs and with Zophie on the way, it felt like my dream was getting further and further away.

We assumed that educational opportunities after high school were not meant for us. A school loan didn’t seem attainable."

Zenaida and her husband, Antonio, in front of their house.

One day, Antonio said, ‘we can figure this out.’ He asked Zenaida what she really wanted to do in life? She wanted to go to school but didn’t know where to start. Soon thereafter, her son brought home a flier from United Way’s Dual Generation Partnership. The very next morning she called the number. Working with nonprofit partners and strengthening individuals and families across Bexar County, United Way is supporting organizations and initiatives offering education and workforce development, like the Dual Generation Partnership, as they increase support of childhood and adult basic education, non-degree and industry-specific certificates, and other career and life pathways.

Zenaida says she never imagined there was a program out there like the Dual Generation initiative. Its focus is creating hope by removing barriers and enabling families to achieve greater stability and success by creating solutions for finding education, childcare, employment and housing.

"They assisted with my son’s daycare so I could feel confident that he was in good hands. As a mom, I needed him to be well taken care of. I received positive feedback about his progress. I knew when he ate, had a diaper change, and I felt good when I went to pick him up."

With this shift in their lives, Zenaida could feel at ease to concentrate on her schooling, having been out of school for nearly 13 years. She could now focus on her goal, getting good grades and attaining specialized training for a career as a pharmacy technician. United Way’s Dual Generation initiative, in partnership with Goodwill of San Antonio’s Good Careers Academy believe that when children are surrounded by strong families and healthy communities, they can break the cycle of poverty, achieve greater stability and fulfill their potential.

Zenaida and Antonio playing with Zophie.

"Like everyone, I just want what’s best for my kids and for them to look up to me.

When I was going to school, my son saw me studying. He was paying attention and says he wants to go to college. Just like my parents, I want him to be more than what I am. It’s a generational step forward.

Being the first person to go to school I am a role model in our family and my son recognizes that we have “things” because I went to school and am working, too."

Currently renting their home, Zenaida and Antonio are building their credit, and the next step is talking to a realtor to purchase a home.

"My life is way different now. I’m the first one in my family that has a real career! I love my job, helping my husband to pay our bills and be financially stable. I have a 401K!

It’s important to me to tell people how I did it. Day care is life changing. The Dual Generation program is life changing."

With the help of a United Way-funded partnership, Zenaida and her family are working hard. Poised for a bright future.

"A career happened out of this for me. I went from being “frozen” to taking the first step. I didn’t have to settle.
Just make that phone call."

Dual Generation Partnership

DualGen answers the call created by poverty by coordinating the expertise of its many partners to create solutions for finding housing, education, childcare and employment.
Learn More

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