It’s hard not to smile when you see the photo that Pohca recently sent to her Oregon Youth Authority juvenile parole/probation officer.
Standing in the lobby of her new workplace, the 16-year-old is proudly holding up her ID badge, emblazoned with the logo of the company: Intel. She’s wearing a face mask, but her eyes show that she’s grinning behind it.
A year ago, Pohca was feeling a bit lost, moving between juvenile detention and residential programs and searching for ways to apply her talents and her straightforward personality in positive ways.
Today, she says she feels grounded, her new job finally giving her something that excites and motivates her every day.
“It helps me want to stay on a good path,” Pohca says. “I haven’t always done the best things, but this job is important to me. I feel like I’m winning at something.”
Some of Pohca’s movement in the past year was beyond her control. At one point, her residential program closed due to lower enrollment related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After several more moves, Pohca ended up at Rivera House, a Janus Youth Programs residential program in Portland. At first, she was unhappy about her new placement, wishing she could go home instead.
But moving back to Portland meant she could enroll at the Portland Opportunities Industrialization Center (POIC) for school, and that’s where she learned about the position at Intel.
One of her teachers recognized her talents in math and science and suggested she apply. Pohca didn’t know much about Intel at the time, but with the support of her teacher and caseworkers, she submitted an application.
Now, she goes to the Intel campus every weekday for work. She’s been learning how to edit videos that the company uses as tutorials for their products, and she also helps organize and ship products.
“I’m just so happy that I have the opportunity to work in a really big facility that actually cares about their workers,” she says. “All of my supervisors are super nice and supportive.”
Julio Garcia, Pohca’s JPPO, says Pohca’s transformation in the past year makes him proud.
“She’s a firecracker, and she used to use it to separate from people,” he says. “Now, it’s the total opposite. She loves to talk to you and she’s really good about letting you know her feelings and what she wants. We’ve been working on doing it in a positive way, while knowing that nobody is perfect.”
Pohca says she’s thankful that Garcia has been there to “keep me in check.” She also credits her caseworkers with helping her make positive changes.
“They say some corny things, but I can tell that they actually care,” she says. “In the system, people do stupid stuff because they feel like nobody cares, and they’re young. One thing that really changed me was I had more of a system, more people in my life that actually wanted me to do good. This is a good feeling.”