Difficulty and hardship are expected any time a teenager needs to uproot and start over in a new place. Now try to imagine the difficulty presented in leaving your home, your language and entire culture, and starting over. This is exactly what Albasheer Faraj did when he and his family left Baghdad, Iraq, his home for 16 years. Both of Albasheer's parents are well-educated and in Iraq were employed in good jobs; Albasheer was an above-average student on track to complete high school on time. Then amid unrest and war the family left their home and relocated to Syria to escape the violence and uncertainty that was a constant in life in Baghdad.
Two years later they came to America as refugees and joined a family member already living in Jamestown. Albasheer was faced with the immense challenge of being 18 years old and a freshman in high school, surrounded by a culture and language that he did not know and struggled to understand. Despite the obstacles Albasheer stayed in high school until he was 21 years old, and always maintained a positive, humorous attitude. He finally left school as a junior, as he reached the maximum age. He attempted the GED and struggled with completing the test in the time allotted as it was not offered in his first language. He also found part-time labor intensive jobs as a way to help provide for himself. He was not happy with his situation and knew he had not found the life he wanted.
Fortunately Albasheer had been introduced to Job Corps by a teacher while he was still in high school. The teacher was concerned about Albasheer's prospects due to his age and language barrier and she had him explore other options in case high school did not work out. Albasheer entered the Cassadaga Job Corps Academy on Sept. 4, 2012, at the age of 23. He knew he needed his education, and felt that Job Corps may be the last door left to him. He felt comfortable and accepted right away.
"I didn't expect to be treated so well by my fellow students," Albasheer said. "I really felt like a part of the Job Corps family there, all of us trying to reach our goals and complete our education, encouraging each other to make sure we got through it."
Aided by a humorous, outgoing personality, he excelled in class and grew personally very quickly at Job Corps. He was enrolled into the Penn Foster High School program offered at the academy and took the Certified Nurse Aide training program. In addition he took advantage of an English Language Learner program offered through a community partner. In eight months he completed the needed credits for his high school diploma and had earned his NYS certification as a nurse aide. His experience and what he learned went beyond his certificates and awards.
"I learned patience, and developed habits that make me a better employee and helped me become a man," Albasheer said. "I had responsibilities and needed to keep busy, that really taught me what work was all about."
He left the program in April 2013 and started working right away as a CNA at Tanglewood Manor and Memory Garden. Albasheer has retained his first job and even added a second job working per diem as a CNA at another facility. In a typical week he works 45 hours, although sometimes he works as many as 60 hours, between the two facilities.
"Al is a super addition to our team," said Terri Ingersoll, Tanglewood Manor chief operating officer. "Staff and residents alike benefit from his light-hearted nature and great sense of humor. That does not negate his empathy and compassion for the senior population we serve. We admire his ambition and drive and anticipate that he will have a successful future with Tanglewood Manor. “Albasheer is thankful for the education and training he received.
"Without Job Corps I would need public assistance to survive, I am sure of it," Albasheer said. "Now I am completely self-sufficient. I pay my own way and contribute to my family; I am proud to say that."
Albasheer also reports that his personal growth in learning more about the culture and improving his English has played an important role in another milestone in his American dream. Late last year, Albasheer pledged his oath and became a U.S. citizen. He is now working to pursue his other dreams and goals and one day in the near future hopes to buy his own home and maybe even join the Army.