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Dominique Fernandez, 26, has a quiet yet confident way about her. It can mask the doubts and fears she's felt on her career path and the personal challenges she has faced. Her story is so remarkable that she once was invited to address a Year Up audience.
Lifespan started supporting Year Up Providence soon after the national job training organization began in Providence in 2005. A national organization, Year Up’s goal is to help disadvantaged young urban adults get on career tracks.
Dominique Fernandez was bouncing around, shuttling between family members’ apartments in Providence, Taunton and Brockton, Massachusetts.
It was a struggle that began when she was born addicted to crack.
Through it all, she managed to graduate from high school and filled out paperwork to go to college. But her family didn’t have the money for heat and electricity, let alone tuition.
"The bills piled up. There was eviction notice after notice. I had to put my education on hold," she says. "It was the scariest thing."
In 2010, Year Up presented her first real opportunity to get on a career path. But it's also when Fernandez's life seemed at its most precarious. She had nowhere to live.
"Being homeless and going to Year Up was definitely a challenge," she says. "At the shelter, you have to be up at a certain time and back at a certain time. You are in a cubby room with three other people and you all have bunk beds. I didn't sleep. I spent most of my nights in the bathroom on the sink countertop waiting for the time to leave in the morning."
Fernandez found a place to live just before beginning her Lifespan internship on the IT Help Desk. She was worried she lacked the technical skills to be successful, but quickly realized she could do it.
“When I first started out I was very nervous. I warmed up very fast once I met the team. They were just very welcoming and supportive,” she says. “By the end of her internship, I was head over heels with Lifespan. I applied to a service desk job opening. I was adamant I was going to get into Lifespan. And I got it."
Fernandez has been promoted from a level one service desk agent to a clinical support analyst assisting users of the LifeChart electronic health records system.