Julien Frost wasn’t sure they wanted to pursue Opportunity Junction’s Administrative Careers Training (ACT) program after they first enrolled in May last year.
In addition to a splitting headache on the first day of class, prior educational experiences that didn’t align with their needs had left a negative impression.
“It was always really hard for me to learn because it was always structured in a way that kind of kept me down. Because there were always so many students, my educational goals fell by the wayside,” said Julien, who is autistic and has learning disabilities. “Going into OJ on my first day, I’m like, ‘I don’t even know if I want to be here right now.’”
But then they saw the placard greeting them on their desk.
“I see my name tag, and it wasn’t my dead name but my chosen name, and it had my pronouns there too,” they said. “And I just remember the immense feeling I had in my heart.”
They noted that individuals often continue to use their legal name instead of their chosen name, which can hinder inclusivity. Therefore, calling people by their chosen name fosters a greater sense of inclusiveness.
“Opportunity Junction took the time to remember that that’s my chosen name, and I just remember feeling great,” they said.
Beyond the positive first impression, Julien further found that the learning environment was more conducive to their needs.
“When I came to Opportunity Junction, because of the smaller classrooms and the sort of individual ‘see-you-as-a-person’ approach, it helped me a lot to learn better.”
Classroom sizes for the ACT typically range from 12 to 18 participants. The program offers 12 weeks of full-time training in office computer applications, academic enhancement, and life skills. Following training, Opportunity Junction employs participants for up to four months through the ACT’s paid work experience portion of the program. Case managers offer support, ensuring links to childcare, health care, food, transportation and other essential services. Meanwhile, a licensed Opportunity Junction clinician provides therapy to address trauma and other issues that may hinder employment. Interns also engage in comprehensive career-building activities, including skills assessment, job search, resume and cover letter preparation, and interview practice.
“The courses were really great. I had a great time, and the teachers were amazing. I loved the class I was with,” they said, adding that the group still stays in contact. “It was a lot of work, but it was a lot of good work and stuff that I still do today in the office.”
Shortly after graduation, Julien landed a job with Rainbow Community Center as a front-end coordinator. The Concord-based nonprofit organization offers support to members of the LGBTQIA+ community by providing support and social groups, professional development and trainings, mental health services, HIV prevention programs, and more.
And Julien loves their new career.
“Before, I was working a bunch of jobs that were going nowhere. They were minimum wage and destroying my body,” they said. “And now, I work nine to five, I don’t work weekends, I make good money, and I get vacation and medical. It’s life-altering. I can really start my life.”
They urged anyone considering the program to cast doubts aside and enroll.
“Opportunity Junction really helped me out, and I would recommend them to anybody.”