No Longer Just a Dream: A Health Care Career Becomes Reality
By Henry Street Settlement
Bianca Pimentel was determined to get the education she needed to pursue a meaningful career. But at 26, she felt stuck. “I just didn’t know how to start that journey,” she says.
Bianca was living paycheck-to-paycheck, doing factory work for Fresh Direct for 10 hours a day in a warehouse refrigerator. The earnings were not nearly enough to save for the nursing programs that enticed her online.
As the eldest in her family, Bianca felt a deep sense of responsibility to succeed. In childhood, she had seen her parents—immigrants from Mexico and the Dominican Republic—struggle financially. They had come to the United States for a better life for their children, and her mother did not want her daughter to repeat the struggles she’d faced.
Bianca’s interest in the health care field came from a fascination with how the body works and from being a caretaker for her father, now 80. But between scheduling, finances, and a lack of confidence, the barriers to a career seemed endless. The inability to find the way forward
led to anxiety and depression. The turning point came when Bianca’s younger sister, an alum of Henry Street’s former Intern and Earn program, encouraged her to explore the opportunities at the Settlement. “She said that she would always remember Henry Street for giving her that chance.”
Working Hard Toward Her Goal
Bianca was assigned to Jay Koo, an employment coordinator in the Job Essentials Training (JET) program. The JET team works with participants to identify their goals and then asks: What’s the first step? “When he found out I was interested in the medical field, we started working hard for it,” Bianca says.
In 2021, Henry Street worked with LaGuardia Community College to help jobseekers enroll in its five-month Certified Clinical Medical Assistant Program. Accepted on her second try, Bianca quit her job and, with Henry Street’s help, found a new position in a wine store. Here, the hours were more flexible, and she was able to dedicate herself to graduating.
When the toll of classes and working, along with a punishing commute, became overwhelming, Jay connected Bianca with a Henry Street social worker, who provided counseling—just one of the ways JET helps its participants surmount significant barriers to reaching their career goals.
“Jay was amazing, he never quit,” Bianca says. “Even after I started an internship, he said, ‘I know you have a job now, but we need to get you to a better place.’”
That place is a full-time position as a medical assistant at NewYork-Presbyterian—a long-time Henry Street partner—where Bianca works in a busy internal medicine practice. She readies supplies for the day, makes sure machines are working properly, and takes vitals such as blood pressure. Most important, she tries to stay one step ahead of the doctor, “and he loves it when I have all the tools out before he gets to me,” she says.
“It’s everything I wanted to do,” Bianca says. “I didn’t know that anything like this was even possible.”
Bianca’s paycheck has allowed her to find her own apartment and relieve her parents of their concerns. She credits the personal attention she received from Jay. “There’s not a time where he wasn’t offering me a new opportunity, a new resource, or something that I can do, and I’ll take that with me for the rest of my life.”
To learn more about JET and become a member, go to henrystreet.org/JET.
Bianca’s story was included in Henry Street’s Fall 2023 newsletter, “Making Connections.” Click here to read the full newsletter.