Prepare to Enter Workforce at the Grace Institute
have to go back into the workforce after 10 years of not working,”
says Roberta, a recent divorcee from Riverdale, “I need
to update my skills a little.” Roberta now spends
her days in typing, English, math and computer classes at the
Grace Institute and hopes to secure full-time employment.
She believes that being a Grace graduate will “put a star
next to” her resume.
Roberta is a mature woman hoping to successfully reenter into
the job market, several of her classmates are fairly recent high
school graduates who will begin their first serious job searches
after finishing the program.
Angrisani, a 21-year-old from Staten Island, says that upon completing
the Grace program she would like to “work for a law firm,
and then maybe later go to law school.”
Truglio, a 19 year-old who transferred from Hunter college to
Grace, doesn’t have any specific career path in mind –
she’ll take “any kind of good job with good benefits.”
won’t have to worry about whether or not her employer will
provide her with benefits after she completes the 5 month Administrative
Assistant program in June. “We will not send anyone
to a job unless they get benefits,” declares Mary Mulvihill,
who recently took over direction of the Grace Institute.
Grace graduates go on to work for some of New York’s largest
companies. In addition to promising job prospects, that
the program is tuition-free is also a great draw for the students.
you don’t have the technological skills, your options are
flipping burgers, or working retail, and a lot of those jobs have
no benefits and start at $5.50 an hour,” Mulvihill explains.
“These women have realized, ‘I can’t find a
than a hundred years after W.R. Grace decided to found a school
that would teach the wives of his workers secretarial skills so
that they could find gainful employment, the Grace program continues
to serve the needs of low-income women – and their future
the 61% of American women in the workforce in the year 2000, 24%
hold administrative support and clerical positions, according
to U.S. Census data. More women work in these fields than
in any other occupational group.
the multitude of scholarships and other resources available today,
it’s surprising to hear these women, particularly the younger
ones, talking about their futures without mention of college.
proof of the close of the gender gap in higher education, often-flouted
statistics show that 56% of college students are women.
In fact, women have held this majority since1979.
though women have made great strides, because we are a country
of immigrants, we’ll always have women coming in at the
bottom,” says Mulvihill.
Grace students are recent immigrants, yet the majority are American-born.
Fifteen of the 56 students are white. All hold either a
GED or a high-school diploma, many having earned the latter from
one of New York City’s public schools.
having been closed for a year and a half because trustees felt
that it had strayed from its mission, the Grace Institute opened
its doors on Monday, February 4th for what Mulvihill describes
as “a five-month pilot program for the big opening in September,”
at which point she hopes to have 300 students.
the students, Mulvihill says, “They are low-income women,
low-skilled . . . and they are eager to change their lives.”
While she plans to add cooking and small-business management courses
in the fall, Mulvihill believes that there are a number of women
who can benefit from the standard secretarial curriculum.
from teaching basic office skills, the program is designed to
develop students’ “soft skills – how to dress,
how to talk, how to act.” Students must dress as they
would for a job and tardiness is not tolerated. “We’re
trying to simulate an office,” explains Mulvihill.
the same time, Mulvihill and the teachers try to create a nurturing
atmosphere. “One of the things, for all women, is the loneliness
factor,” says Mulvihill. “If you don’t
build up that inner-self, you can have all the skills in the world
and you won’t get hired.”
students seem to see the program in a more practical light, focusing
more on job security than confidence-building. Melissa,
who just lost her job as a receptionist, says she came to Grace
“to help me get a job that would last for more than 6 months.”
looks like when you’re a receptionist you’re really
dispensable . . . you’re the first to go,” explains
Fran, who had also recently lost her job. She said she wishes
she had heard about the Grace program “years ago.”
an attractive young woman with long chestnut hair and barely a
hint of a Wisconsin accent, came all the way from the Midwest
to take advantage of the tuition-free Grace program. Her
boyfriend’s sister found an advertisement for the program
at her church and offered to bring Loreli to New York to live
with her so that she could sign up at Grace.
knew I’d been struggling with finances and pretty much not
going anywhere,” said Loreli. Now one of the most advanced
students in her classes, Loreli had begun learning computer skills
before coming to New York but had not enrolled in a community
college due to her economic situation. She had a part-time
low-end job back home and feels that she has been “handed
a golden opportunity.”#
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