Longtime Program Helps Cambridge Immigrants Launch Biotech Careers

By Marissa Wu
Wicked Local Metro, Needham, Mass.

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The biomedical careers program at Cambridge’s “Just-A-Start” is helping low- and moderate-income adults in finding employment in science industries.

Wicked Local Metro, Needham, Mass.

Jeannette Hernandez Mateu and Zuriashindril Mega hunch over their notes during a chemistry lecture, but they don’t attend the high school or a local university.

Mateu and Mega are students in a biomedical training program aimed at assisting low- and moderate-income adults in finding employment in science industries.

Many students are immigrants and work in addition to attending intensive classes.

For Mateu and Mega, their days start at dawn, but both believe taking part in the biomedical careers program at Cambridge’s Just-A-Start Corporation is worth it.

“If I got this training and if I equip myself with this knowledge, there is plenty of opportunity for me to be hired,” Mega explained.

The Fresh Pond resident and immigrant from Ethiopia balances her work at Trader Joe’s and the Cambridge Community Learning Center with a full-time education.

Mateu is a Malden resident and single mother from El Salvador. She works part-time for a cleaning company in Cambridge. By going through training, she also hopes to show her daughter that hard work reaps benefits, she said.

“It’s a rigorous program and to balance family, work, and the program,” Mateu said. “But, I’m here and I’m committed to finishing… On the side, I’m teaching my daughter: go to school and get a degree is the best way to have a career and a good life.”

Founded in 1968, Just-A-Start launched the biomedical careers training program 26 years ago, partnering with Bunker Hill Community College and local employers like Biogen and Novartis, according to Gina Plata, director of education and training. Plata said the organization prioritizes diversity for its annual classes of about 20 students.

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