Berhan Schade first came to Operation Fresh Start to participate in the STRIVE Construction program for career exploration and employment training. She gained hands-on experience working on a new-construction home in Sun Prairie.
Berhan had an interest in woodworking, so STRIVE program supervisors connected her with an internship opportunity at a premiere local woodworker: Carley, Wood Associates, Inc. One project she assisted on was building an acoustic ceiling cloud.
Berhan says that was an amazing experience, but she decided not to pursue woodworking due to the time and finances required to pursue college. Her next career idea was becoming a dental hygienist, but that was another path that required post-secondary education and, as a single mom, would not fit into her schedule right now.
Berhan sought guidance from the OFS CareerScape Counseling program. Working with Program Coordinator Aram Donabedian, she identified the dental assistant training program at Access Community Health Centers as the best way to gain experience and start her career. It’s a paid, 12-week program that includes assisting in real appointments with patients.
With help from CareerScape, Berhan applied for the program and was offered an interview. Aram conducted a mock interview and helped her practice some persuasive answers to commonly asked questions. Feeling more confident, Berhan nailed the interview and was accepted into the program.
Access Community Health Centers
“Everybody [at Access] is super nice and everybody’s family. Everybody is connected to each other,” says Berhan. “There’s a lot of [patients] that come in here and feel really comfortable because they know people or they’ve seen everybody here multiple times, and we know them by name.”
Access Community Health Centers provides culturally-appropriate services to patients who face critical health challenges, including poverty and unstable housing. They care for people who otherwise would have no health care available to them, offering sliding fee discounts to patients in need.
“Access’s goal I feel like connects to my goal, because everything I want to do is basically to help others,” says Berhan. Her sister founded a nonprofit called Negisti’s Haven, which helps poor women in Africa and teaches them to become entrepreneurs. “I want to be part of helping them somehow — maybe with their teeth because they really don’t get any care.”
Her sister works in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, where Berhan grew up. She lived in an orphanage with her sister until the age of nine when she was adopted and moved to Wisconsin.
“She goes back there to help other women because we were in that situation. Our mom was a person living on the streets with two kids and nobody helping her,” says Berhan. “It was to the point of us stealing food or getting fed leftovers by restaurants.”
“But I always say some people go through stuff and they use it as a way to keep themselves down. And some people use it as a way to help other people.”
Dental Assistant Training
Berhan has been excelling in the Dental Assistant Training Program. She has learned how to operate an x-ray machine, assist in tooth extractions, make dental impressions, and work on fillings. Most recently, she completed a few of the steps to make dentures.
“I put the dental stone on the vibrating machine to make sure all of the bubbles go away. I like that process because I get to use my creative side,” says Berhan.
The fact that Access offers a paid training program makes a huge difference for Berhan. “If this wasn’t a paid opportunity, this wouldn’t be available to me because that’s not an option I have. I have a child to support and I have myself to support.”
Berhan’s son Zaydeon is three and a half years old now. When she finishes the Dental Assistant Training program in mid-December she will start a full-time position working at the Sun Prairie location of Access Community Health Centers.
OFS CareerScape Coordinator Aram Donabedian says he had a great experience working with Berhan. “She’s super talented and extremely poised, but just lacked confidence,” says Aram. He says they worked together on learning how to tell her story and own it.
“Operation Fresh Start was great. [The staff] brought up my confidence and showed me I had the abilities to do whatever I wanted to do,” says Berhan. “I was in the mindset of questioning what I was going to do after getting out of high school and having a baby. I feel like if I didn’t go through OFS, I would have continued to work at somewhere like a call center or Walmart and I wouldn’t have really seen my own potential.”