It was already a juggling act that would be daunting for anyone.
Ada knew relatively early that she wanted to be a Maritime Engineer, working to build and maintain the freight ships and other vessels that are so crucial to Oregon’s coast and to all Oregonians. So she started exploring trade work before she even finished high school. She was managing both her high school work and a maritime industry apprenticeship; it was quite the undertaking.
But then, an injury put her mother out of work, and Ada had to pick up night-shifts at a local cannery to support her family.
Getting home from work as the sun rose each morning, she would regularly need to decide between getting some sleep, doing some homework, or getting ready for classes.
She needed to make it all work somehow.
With the encouragement of her mother, she decided to switch over to a GED program at Clatsop Community College to allow her to stay enrolled in her trade program.
But it was still a strain juggling school and work.
“Due to making school my priority, I had to stop going to work. And because of that, I struggled with rent,” says Ada, who was born and raised in Astoria.
So she went to her GED program advisors and told them everything she was managing.
They helped connect Ada with Oregon’s Youth Development Division and Northwest Oregon Works, who helped her gain access to rent assistance, and get the computer she needed to complete her school and trade work during the pandemic.
This assistance helped Ada keep on track and earn her GED.
“I was able to move further in my maritime career and given more opportunities due to having my GED…I was able to apply for maritime academies,” she says.
She says wraparound services like the ones she was able to access are crucial for students to succeed. “Supporting students in all kinds of ways is highly important. With students that struggle to find technology, transportation, or rent, it’s important to have options. Some students have to put work first in order to pay bills and provide for families. Our education gets us a foundation for our future.”
Now, Ada is a student at Tongue Point Job Corps Seamanship Program. When My Oregon News spoke with her, she was excited to get to work the next day because she would be working on a ship.
“I love the water, I love working on the water. I love being out in nature and working on these ships,” she said.
Ada also likes the supportive community she finds in the trade. While she says maritime work is still predominantly a male-dominated field, she finds it empowering to be a woman in the trade. Her crew is always supporting and encouraging her. And she is also starting to see other women of color enter the field, and the sense of community and camaraderie she finds with them is motivating.
Wraparound services like the ones Ada was able to access through her community college and through Northwest Oregon Works are vital to young people as they seek education and career training. The Future Ready Oregon 2022 package, which is being considered in the 2022 Legislative Session, includes investments in expanding this type of program so that no Oregonian is left without options to succeed.
In the face of daunting challenges, Ada kept working hard, problem-solving, and is on track to achieve her dreams. She says the support she was able to get was a huge part of her journey. And this support also gave her something vital— hope.
“Being a first generation student, daughter of an immigrant mother, the hope I was given was extremely appreciated. My family and I are extremely grateful.”