Lizette Montes has always feared that her past would define her, but when she enrolled in the Medical Assistant Technician program at Florida Career College’s Miami campus, she found a path to move forward and provide a brighter future for herself and her daughter.
“I chose medical assisting because I love to help people,” she said. “I’m a very big people person. I love the connections I’ve been making with patients, with coworkers. I feel like I picked the right course.”
It took some courage for Lizette to get started with her training. For years she had been working at a supply store, making bags and boxes for plant nurseries. It wasn’t what she wanted for herself, but it was enough to get by. When she had her daughter, things changed.
“I was struggling to make ends meet for her,” she said. “I wanted to be able to give her everything she asked me for.”
The only thing holding her back was her criminal record. Lizette said she learned the hard way at the age of 18 that some of her friends were not her friends. She was charged with a crime she did not commit, and the experience left her feeling stuck.
“I thought it would mess up everything for my future,” she said. “I thought I would be stuck at a job where I got paid less than I deserve. I thought I wouldn’t be able to do anything with my life. I didn’t want my daughter to see that. I wanted her to know no matter what is going on in your life you can always make it better. You don’t have to be stuck there.”
Lizette searched online for a program that could give her a chance at a new career quickly. She found FCC.
“I was nervous. I didn’t know if I made the right choice,” she said. “My daughter, I had left her in daycare. A lot was going through my mind. I was scared, but everything there was super nice. Everybody that worked there was super nice and made me feel very comfortable.”
Lizette was able to connect with what she was learning right away. Her grades never slipped below a 4.0 and she had perfect attendance throughout her time.
“My initial meeting with her was a joyous one and every encounter since has been amazing,” said Eboni Evans, a Career Services Specialist at the Miami campus. “She is one of those students that I don’t have to track down. When I reach out to her, she is always responsive and very responsible. Her follow-through is amazing. She is a great student.”
Lizette felt passionate about working in a pediatric office and caring for kids like her daughter but when the time came for her externship, those fears crept back in. She knew her record might hold her back from working in an office with children.
After being assigned to an externship site at a pediatric office, Lizette broke down. She was excited about the possibility but also knew the office might turn her away once her background check came through.
“Seeing her so upset because she was afraid the site might turn her down, it showed me how serious she was,” Eboni said. “She had three certificates in her hand. One was for perfect attendance, one was for something else, and one was for the honor roll. I said ‘Let me have those certificates.’ I wrote a letter to the on-site coordinator and included those certificates.”
The supervisor at the office did have concerns when they received the information, but after reviewing Lizette’s grades, her attendance record, and her recommendation from the school, they decided to move forward with the externship. At the end of her externship, Lizette was offered a full-time position.
“It felt great. It felt like I could finally move on,” Lizette said. “I always felt like I would be stuck in a job that was not for me because no one would accept me for me after they saw my record. It just felt really good.”
“This is what I’m here for, to see and be a part of it,” Eboni said. “I love the healthcare industry so to have a part in it in some small way, even just encouraging the students, it feels amazing. To also see that you can actually change a life and contribute and make an impact on society, it’s a phenomenal feeling to see a student get a second chance.”
“Your past doesn’t define you,” Lizette said. “A lot of people get wrapped up in youth and do reckless stuff, but it doesn’t have to stop you from doing something. If I let it hold me back, I would still be at that job and not being able to buy pampers for my baby when I needed them. . Just don’t get stuck.”