LAWRENCE -- When Gianni Ovalle de Rosario came to Lawrence from the Dominican Republic, she couldn't speak English well. It made her hard to get a job, even though she was trained as an accountant and had experience in that field.
"I was an accountant in my own country, and my experiences were invalidated by not mastering English," she said.
On Wednesday, de Rosario stood before a group of Lawrence city leaders, held up as the model for a new program partnering English language learning with career coaching.
The program, called 'English for Advancement,' will be run by Lawrence CommunityWorks in partnership with Jewish Vocational Service and the Lawrence Working Families Initiative.
"English language acquisition is a big issue for Lawrence workers, and for people trying to get better jobs, there's a big wait list for ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) classes in the city," said Jessica Andors, executive director of Lawrence CommunityWorks. "We're adding some great intensive English classes that are also workforce contextualized."
The program is part of a broader state initiative known as pay-for-success, which leverages private funding from investors with nonprofit social service efforts. If the program is successful — if the students learn, and are able to move on to better paying jobs — the investors will get the money they invested back from the state. If the organization fails, the investors lose their money.
Pay-for-success financing is an approach to paying for social-service projects that might otherwise be cut in a tight state budget.
In Lawrence, the program is run by a partnership with Jewish Vocational Services, a Greater Boston area nonprofit that works towards workforce development and adult education, Lawrence CommunityWorks, and the Lawrence Working Families Initiative, a Lawrence Public Schools program aimed at getting parents career training.
"Three years ago we opened the Family Resource Center, and have been using our contacts with families as a potential entry into the program," said Nelson Butten, the director of community, family, and student engagement with Lawrence Public Schools.
So far, the Lawrence Working Families Initiative has placed 180 parents with jobs, according to Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera.
"Every one person we teach to speak English can empower not only that person, but a family, and even a workforce," said Rivera.
The classes will be run out of Lawrence CommunityWorks' office at 168 Newbury St..