Yael has long black hair that falls to the middle of her back. She wears hoop earrings and speaks softly. At 28, she looks like any other young Jerusalem mother.
 
Six years ago, Yael was a young divorcee with two toddlers and no income. She could not keep a job longer than a couple of months. At the employment office, a woman recommended that Yael look into a program called Strive.

 

 

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Established with Federation funding, in partnership with Israel’s Ministry of Industry, Trade and Employment, Strive provides young people who lack job skills with training courses and life counselors.

Yael arrived at the program lacking all basic work skills—including confidence. She was completely unable to talk in front of a group. “After two weeks in the course, they told us to give a 60-second speech. These were my girlfriends, I knew everybody. I came in and I felt that something was wrong… and I saw the window, and I told myself I must get some air… and I tried to get to the window … and simply fainted… I went to the hospital and I couldn’t talk for two hours! I had an anxiety attack from the need to speak for 60 seconds!”
 
But the Strive staff were patient with her. “I came back after the anxiety attack, and they told me, you don’t have to stand, and you don’t have to speak, you may sit. They joked with me. And then I told myself: ‘You came so far, you did things that you never did before.’ I stood up and spoke those 60 seconds, even though my voice was trembling. I was a little bit shaky, but I did it… and this is an accomplishment.”
 
Yael was paired with a mentor, Renana, who taught her basic job readiness skills. “She told me, stand up when you speak, don’t interrupt… things I never experienced before,” Yael recalls. “How to behave to your boss, how to speak to your boss, how to give feedback.”
 
Strive changed Yael’s entire world view. “One day, my kids woke up and didn’t feel like getting dressed. I needed to do everything for them, so I was simply late to work.” Yael thought there was nothing she could do about this: she had woken up on time and her children had made her late. Her mentor disagreed. “Renana asked me to think about how I could do things differently. This is the kind of question that before arriving at Strive, I wouldn’t have asked myself.”
 
Yael worked on improving her bad habits.  “I was always saying: This is me. Take it or leave it. Shimrit, a mentor in Strive, told me, ‘If I were you, I would ask instead, ‘This is me?’ As in, is this really me, or can I change something?”
 
Yael carries this lesson with her. “First recognize the problem, and then find ways to deal with it.”
 
Yael’s success has extended to her entire family. Her brother and sister have both joined the program, and soon a sister-in-law will as well.

When Yael graduated, she was hired by a cellular firm. “They told me, we don’t usually accept moms, but because we were so impressed by your performance, we decided to accept you. When we graduated from training at the cellular company, I was first in my class.” However, there was a catch. “Three times a week I have to work night shifts. I said no problem. Many times I couldn’t see my kids… I was paying 2000 shekels a month just for babysitters… but I didn’t give up even for a minute.”
 
Yael got a chance to change things, though. “I told them, now that you know who I am, I want to get something in return. I won’t agree to work at night. I won’t agree that my kids will suffer from my work. After two days they came back to me and told me that they accept my terms.”
 
Today, she is customer manager at the cellular firm. She sets up her own schedule and arranges to spend plenty of time with her sons. She is well-liked at her job. “Every day I receive letters of appreciation,” she laughs.

 “If I hadn’t gone through Strive,” she reflects, “I would probably still be looking for a job. I would have never achieved so much. I have self confidence. I know how to approach a boss, how to be excellent at my work, and how to think for the future.”

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