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    Posted December 10, 2013 by
    new york, New York
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Impact Your World

    Changing Lives - One STEP at a Time


    via Jessicah White @ Per Scholas

    The good news keeps coming.

    Companies have snatched up almost all our graduates from the first-ever Software Testing Education Program (STEP) class, and now ProtoTest has hired Eren Kim and the current featured student of the month, Miguel Ponce.

    “ProtoTest is thrilled to be hiring graduates of the first-ever Per Scholas Software Testing Education Program. Based on the close alignment between Per Scholas’ mission and ProtoTest’s B Corp ethos, we offered to consider participants who might be open to relocation (Denver). After reviewing resumes, we arranged phone interviews, followed by Skype video interviews.

    And we were blown away by two candidates in particular – Eren and Miguel – who were both bright, articulate, enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the practice of software testing,” shared Pete Dignan, founder and CEO. “We can’t wait to have them join our lab team where they will continue to grow their skills and learn their craft. We’re grateful to the folks at Barclays and the other professionals who invested in training Miguel, Eren and their classmates.”

    Miguel called Per Scholas from the airport when he and Eren flew out from New York to relocate to Denver.  When Executive Director Angie Kamath, who spoke often with Miguel during his training here, was called over to say goodbye she called out before taking the call “Oh, no… I’m going to cry.” As you know from Miguel’s story, his life has just changed dramatically and in such a positive way.

    Miguel, 26, has lived in more than 10 different homes in his life. He survived cancer in his single digits. He learned to read when he was in the fourth grade. And our staff have bets on him to be one of the most successful graduates in Per Scholas history.

    Miguel had about a million opportunities to — as people put it to him — “fall through the cracks”. Fleeing a violent relationship with Miguel’s father, Miguel’s mother moved him and his three siblings from California to New York City when he was three years old. At the age six, he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the lymphatic system, and was in and out of Memorial Sloan Kettering until he was 10.

    By the age of 13, he and his sister were forced into foster care due to educational neglect (they weren’t going to school). He spent two years in his first foster home and then returned back to live with his mom. One month later he was placed back into foster care.

    In the following nine months, he lived in six different homes covering just about every New York City borough — and Long Island. He attended lots of different schools, encountered a lot of different challenges, and at 16, after his sister ran away, Miguel entered an agency operating boarding home (AOBH) where he lived with five other young men being cared for by two AOBH employees.

    At 19, he dropped out of high school and at 20 he aged out of the foster care system and moved in with one of his sisters in the Bronx. He got his GED, took a few classes through University of Phoenix, acquired debt, and went through hourly jobs one after another. His longest job was just under two years at Walgreens.

    With so many housing changes, school changes, and disruptions in maintaining basic living standards, I wondered when computers ever had the chance to enter Miguel’s life. “I would sneak into the basement of a museum near me when I was 11 — that was where the computers were — and I would stay down there for hours, day after day.”

    By the age of 17, Miguel figured out enough about computers that he built his own buying cheap pieces online and finding others where he could. He built his second computer from scratch when he was 19. This is a common trend among a very specific group of our students — the natural techies who dive into it fueled by insatiable curiosity.

    Then, at the age of 26, he found Per Scholas.

    When students like Miguel find Per Scholas, it’s a match made in heaven and immediately noticeable in class. He excelled as a top student during his 15-week training led by our instructor Obinna Nwoke. So good, Miguel was nominated by his instructor and career development team to be part of the first-ever pilot STEP launched in August of this year.

    The Software Testing Education Program, in partnership with Barclays is an intensive lab-based, instructor-led two-week course created to prepare Per Scholas students for entry-level software testing roles. The project is a collaboration with partners: Association for Software Testing, DevelopSense, QASymphony, Satisfice, SmartBear, uTest, and Workroom Productions. The course is free to students.

    The program covers quality concepts, techniques and objectives of testing including exercises on working live software projects and Black Box Testing Machines. But the core of the course focuses on Rapid Software Testing, which was co-authored by James Bach and Michael Bolton, and includes topics of critical thinking, oracles, heuristics and test techniques. Pre-reading and coursework for this week includes current white papers and articles from thought leaders in the software testing industry.

    All coursework is supported by field studies, onsite visits to working software testing projects via partner companies. Students get real world access to professional testers through half-day field studies followed by debriefing at Per Scholas classrooms. In addition to the career support provided by Per Scholas, uTest is inviting STEP graduates to attend their uTest “Sandbox” program – a real-world testing exercise – where they can earn money for submitting valuable bugs and receive professional feedback on ways to improve their skills.

    A one-year membership to the Association for Software Testing will also be provided to students where they can gain access to industry conferences, videos, and professional testing resources.

    Eren Kim is an equal beneficiary to ProtoTest opening its doors. Eren was unemployed for more than two years prior to finding Per Scholas. A job lost from the recession, Eren was in great need of an opportunity — and now that struggle and doubt is a thing of her past. She made her stop into Per Scholas prior to flying out and it was hugs all around.

    The average starting salary from our first STEP class was $40,000. Per Scholas launched its second STEP class on October 31 comprised of 13 new Per Scholas alumni — and the employers are already lining up. Thanks to ProtoTest and to all who made this program’s success possible. We are blown away by the response.

    We are so incredibly appreciative of all who are committed to helping others, and I am confident saying we are all incredibly proud of Miguel.



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