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In his own words: Kimani describes his journey with Neighborhood House

My name is Batholomew Henya Kimani. I was born in Kenya in 1981 and emigrated to the U.S when I was 19 years old with nothing more than the clothes on my back and $6 dollars in my pocket.

I recently reached two of the greatest milestones of my life—I graduated from Washington State University with a master’s degree in material science engineering and I became a naturalized United States citizen.

Despite these accomplishments, I found it difficult to get my slice of the American pie. I was frustrated and angry at the system. The way I saw it, I did everything I was supposed to. I stayed out of trouble. I worked hard to pay for my education throughout community college, undergrad, and graduate studies, maintained positive influences from family and friends, and applied to countless jobs in my field of study. Unemployment benefits became my lifeline after my hours got cut at a caregiving position that I had taken to pay bills and help make ends meet.

Throughout my life, my parents reminded me to stay humble but hungry. I took every opportunity to attend career and job fairs sponsored by WorkSource. It was during one of my visits to their office in Renton that I was fortunate enough to be introduced to Joyce with Neighborhood House.

After a brief conversation, she immediately recognized that the main challenge I was facing was practical experience in a manufacturing environment and recommended that I enroll in the pre-apprenticeship program offered by the Manufacturing Academy at the Georgetown campus of South Seattle College.

The 13-week program, sponsored by the Aerospace Joint Apprenticeship Committee, was divided into five weeks of classwork in which a variety of hard and soft skills were taught in preparation for an 8-week paid internship offered through two participating manufacturing companies. 

Neighborhood House got me through some very difficult times, including being homeless. Most notably, they provided me with gas cards for transportation to and from my parent’s house for the duration of the five-week program, a difficult task with my unemployment benefits exhausted. They also paid my enrollment costs into the Manufacturing Academy pre-apprentice program, and when I finally got the job of my dreams at the end of the session, they offered to assist me with relocation costs to help me get back on my feet.

I am eternally grateful to Neighborhood House for their involvement in my life and my community. If it weren’t for Joyce and her funding, I would never have had the opportunity to refine my resume, develop hard and soft skills, acquire certifications, or learn how to effectively conduct myself during a job interview.

After five short weeks, I finally got what I could not get on my own—the opportunity to get my foot in the door of Kaiser Aluminum, a distinguished company, gain experience, and work my way up the career ladder.

A year from now, I envision myself on a continued path of increased training and becoming industry-specific certified while I gain more experience as a materials or process engineer.

And for other young people out there who may be faced with similar challenges as I have? I would tell them to humble themselves and to not go through life with a sense of entitlement. Humility goes a long way in this day and age. I'm just fortunate enough to have recognized its worth at an early age.