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I Change Lives: Jose Ortega

A Q&A with an employee who is making a difference through the mission of Goodwill

Meet Jose Ortega

Jose is a Training Coach for Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee. Based at Goodwill’s Career Solutions Center at 405 S. James Campbell Blvd. in Columbia, Jose conducts operational, leadership and soft skills training for Goodwill employees and clients. He also organizes and hosts job fairs held on the second Tuesday at that location.

Biography

Role model. That’s Jose Ortega summed up in two words. Whether it be athletics, academia or helping others, Jose has always been determined to set an example for others to follow. After graduating from King/Drew Magnet High School of Medicine and Science, he enrolled in the medical assistant program at High-Tech Institute with hopes to get a soccer scholarship to Vanderbilt University and become a doctor. But on June 4, 2007, Jose was the victim of a violent assault while jogging in his hometown of Mt. Pleasant. A gunshot wound in his spine left him paralyzed from the waist down. Jose wasn’t ready to give up, but he also wasn’t fully prepared for the obstacles he would face while looking for a job with a disability. In April of 2011, Jose joined Goodwill’s transitional program. When he completed the program, he was hired as a part-time Administrative Assistant at the Spring Hill Career Solutions Center, where he quickly progressed to serve Goodwill’s mission of changing lives through education, training and employment in additional roles and capacities.

What brought you to Goodwill?

After the incident, I had trouble finding a job. For instance, during job interviews, I would be asked if I could stand or lift 50 pounds. I felt like throwing in the towel. I was very depressed. Then, one day in April 2011, my sister asked me to take her to the nearby Goodwill store. At first, I had just planned to drop her off. But, instead, I asked her if she knew anything about the Career Solutions Center next to the retail store. She explained that Goodwill uses its centers to help people with disabilities find jobs. So, I went in and received information about the transitional program.

Did you go through Career Solutions?

Yes, I did. When I completed the Career Solutions transitional program, I was hired as a Administrative Assistant at the Spring Hill Career Solutions Center.

What has surprised you most in your time with Goodwill?

I have been surprised by how many people Goodwill helps find jobs throughout Middle Tennessee. I also had no idea how many training classes we offer!

What do you enjoy most about your job?

What I enjoy the most is helping people find a job. Whenever a client comes to Career Solutions and learns how to use a computer, update their resume or another skill, they are able to use that information to reach their full potential through the power of work.

What has been your single most meaningful experience in working with clients?

When I was an Administrative Assistant at the Spring Hill Career Solutions Center, I helped an ex-felon apply for a job. Within few days, he had a job offer. He was very happy and proud of himself.

Do you feel like your experiences have given you a special perspective or insight into helping people?

Yes. My experience has taught me that we all need a little bit of help. Just a pat on the back or a positive comment can make a big difference in the day of someone who is feeling discouraged.

Why is your job important to Goodwill’s mission?

Goodwill’s mission is changing lives through education, training and employment. For clients, that begins with the resources and information in our Career Solutions Center.

How do you change lives?

I change lives by helping the clients that come to our office with the connections and resources Goodwill has to offer. Just as my life changed when I was offered a job at Goodwill, I now help clients find life-changing employment that they might not have been offered otherwise.

Who is a Goodwill client?

A Goodwill client is any person who comes to Goodwill needing help determining a job or career in which they have a probability of being successful. Goodwill does this through education, training and employment, in addition to helping individuals secure other resources they need to live successfully in the community. Goodwill employs many clients in its stores and donation centers. In fact, nearly 90 percent of employees came to Goodwill because of its mission.

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