When she was still a teen, New Jersey City University rising senior and Jersey City resident Sheny Guzman, 22, had an idea that she hoped would bridge her native El Salvador with her family’s adopted homeland. Realizing that many destitute people in developing nations risk their lives to immigrate illegally to the U.S. for work, Guzman wanted to find a way to increase employment opportunities for those people in their native countries.
“In El Salvador, and in a lot of poor countries, there are call centers for companies,” said Guzman. “They pay really well. But to work at these centers you have to speak English. The thing that really made a difference in my father’s life was also his ability to speak English. He was able to leave El Salvador and come here and start his own business.”
Guzman is trying to negotiate a relationship with a company that runs call centers for Facebook.
“So, I thought, what if there was a way to give [poor] workers English skills,” said Guzman, an international business major.
She soon hatched an idea that led to the creation of the Samuel Guzman Give a Chance Foundation, named in memory of her father, who died in 1998 and who was the inspiration for the nonprofit.
Through the nonprofit, Guzman plans to partner with schools in developing nations to teach the students English. This year she started a two-year pilot program in Chalatenango, El Salvador.
Working with the Universidad Monsenor Oscar Arnulfo Romero, the foundation is underwriting the cost of English classes for students ages 14 to 18 who are attending the Instituto Nacional General Juan Orlando Zepeda, a vocational nursing school.
The program began in February of this year and currently has about 260 students enrolled in the English course.
Guzman, whose work has already been featured in the Spanish-language publications Hoy and El Diario, covered the costs of the initial pilot program currently underway at the Instituto Nacional with money from her own savings. She’s now trying to raise money to fund the cost of continuing the English program in Chalatenango. On Thursday, June 21, the Samuel Guzman Give a Chance Foundation will hold a dinner fundraiser at 7:30 at Piccolino Ristorante in Bayonne. Tickets are $50.
At present, she estimates it will cost about $36,000 to fund the cost of the program for each two-year cycle.
Once the Chalatenango program has been solidified, she hopes to expand the program to other countries.
Taking jobs away from U.S. workers?
She is also trying to negotiate a relationship with the company Transactel, a firm that runs call centers for Facebook and other businesses.
When asked whether she believes her efforts take jobs away from U.S. workers – who companies have bypassed for call center work in favor of cheaper labor in developing nations – Guzman said, “No…The poor people here in the United States have more than poor people in places like in El Salvador. I think it’s better to offer opportunities for people in their own countries, rather than have them come here. We should want to help them.”
Guzman’s foundation, and her recent coverage in the Spanish-language media, has made her a local celebrity in Hudson County’s Latino community.
E-mail E. Assata Wright at email@example.com.