The last few years have been highly challenging, but with the help of BakerRipley donors and supporters like you, many of our neighbors have found a way to thrive despite the obstacles. As we’ve implemented Verizon’s Tech Equity programs, we’ve seen stories of transformation with long-lasting impact on our neighbors, communities, and city!
Today, we’re excited to introduce you to an exceptionally driven and brilliant neighbor who has experienced this type of opportunity.
Meet Oni Meeks, a lively, academically-gifted young woman who dreamed of a bright future.
We hope you are inspired by Oni’s story. When financial struggle, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, threatened to ruin Oni’s educational goals, her mother introduced her to BakerRipley. There, she met mentors, she found the CompTIA A+ program, she explored possibilities through BakerRipley’s Tech Bridge, and she reclaimed her bright future!
ONI’S BRIGHT FUTURE
“High school was pretty much easy,” says Oni. She’s young, smart, and self-motivated, with an outgoing personality, infectious smile, and big dreams. “Just do the work. Get the good grades. Easy peasy. I really like math and science. I liked astronomy. I like geoscience. I liked physics. So I basically went out of my way and took college course levels during my high school years.”
So when she first stepped onto the University of North Texas campus as a freshman in 2019, she was eager, ready, and focused.
She dove into her freshman classes, taking an expansive class load. Physics, astronomy, Japanese, and coding studies all filled her days. And while she didn’t particularly enjoy coding, college is about self-discovery and exploring the unknown.
But there was one unknown that Oni didn’t know how to navigate: the extremely high cost of college tuition.
Oni was the first person in her immediate family to attend college. She made the difficult decision to step away from college to get a job.
She didn’t give up her educational dreams. Oni said to herself, “Okay, let me go find a job, so that I can go back to college.” That’s exactly what she did; she found a job at a hotel. Through hard work and perseverance, she advanced to a front desk position, where she could leverage her friendly personality and problem-solving skills.
Once again, she found herself face-to-face with technology problems. As a front-desk worker, she was often tasked with troubleshooting issues with office equipment, computers, and the internet. Ever curious, Oni learned how to solve these IT problems.
But as we’ve all experienced over these past few years, more trouble was right around the corner: COVID-19 struck, and Oni found herself once again jobless.
“During that time, I was stuck at home,” recalls Oni. “I can’t go back to college now. And now, it’s really hard to find a job.” But like any good self-starter, Oni used COVID’s forced isolation to consider her next steps. “I started to really consider what my life is going to be. I really started to think, ‘What do I want out of my time? Out of the career?’”
ONI FINDS BAKERRIPLEY
“My mom came to my room one day. And she was like, hey, Oni, I know you really like science. I found a post on Facebook from BakerRipley, and they’re actually looking for students to take their IT course for CompTIA+.”
Oni wasted no time and was soon coordinating with Diana Delgado, one of BakerRipley’s amazing Mobility Mentors responsible for coaching and supporting BakerRipley students through their entire program process. It’s a long-term, deeply-committed partnership that ensures every student has the best chance of not only sticking with a program, but that they graduate with a follow-up success plan.
Diana applied BakerRipley’s time-tested, holistic approach to serving our neighbors. She met Oni where she was, asking about her educational journey, her personal strengths, and her goals for the future.
In short order, Diana had accurately identified Oni as an ideal candidate for the Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA A+) certification process. This program is the largest vendor-neutral credentialing program for technology workers, and has awarded more than 2.5 million certifications in areas such as cybersecurity, networking, cloud computing and technical support.
CompTIA was the perfect vehicle to create pathways to the opportunities that would make Oni’s hopes and dreams possible.
So what was one critical step for Oni’s new educational journey? Verizon’s TechBridge program, also called the “Bridge for Careers in Tech”. This short program introduces prospective students to successful Technology professionals from various disciplines, exposing these learners to the possibilities that lay before them. This crucial step in the process allows BakerRipley students the opportunity to refine and fine-tune the rest of their classes.
“When I attended the information session and later the classes in the Bridge,” says Oni, “I realized that this was some serious deal! The presenters were an eye opener. I got to see and hear so many professionals in the field and learned so much. It had a big impact on me. I could see myself doing something in tech, in a field that’s always been so male dominant.”
Through the Bridge experience, she heard from a man who worked with NASA’s informational systems, a woman who taught computer science, and a variety of other interesting professionals.
“I was really pumped. I’m like, Okay, I think I can actually get into this career.”
ONI’S CAREER BEGINS
Oni flew through her classes, successfully earning her certification as an IT Technician by the end of the program.
And during this time when jobs are competitive and futures are uncertain, it took Oni only 3 months to earn a position as a Help Desk Technician.
“I started with them about two to three months ago,” Oni explains. “And ever since then, I’ve had a lot of learning. I get to meet a whole bunch of people all across the country. I get calls from people in Hawaii, saying ‘hey, our computers messed up. Come help us fix it’. And essentially, that’s what I do. And I really like my job.”
“Before my mom showed me BakerRipley, I really didn’t have a vision on what I wanted to do. But this actually cleared that pathway for me, and showed me the light on what I wanted to do. So truly, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for helping this organization reach me from a place where I really didn’t have any places to go during COVID.”
Without caring Houston neighbors like you, Oni wouldn’t be where she is today.
We’re proud of Oni, Diana, and every student, instructor, volunteer, donor, and partner who — together with BakerRipley — continue to move our Neighbors forward to tech careers.