Today she works as a residential energy auditor and a home performance technician, earning a good living as a trained expert in a growing green industry.
And last week, Sary took a day off work, travelled to Salem, Oregon, and told her story to more than a dozen legislators, encouraging them to continue funding Clean Energy Works Oregon – one of the organizations that helped her pull herself out of poverty.
“When they met me and learned that I was a product of the program, I think it made a difference,” she said.
In 2003, Sary graduated with a degree in environmental studies from the University of Oregon. After graduation, she traveled and worked in Italy and Mexico. But things changed after her son’s father died. She struggled to regain her footing and was forced to rely on government assistance, while she tried to find work.
Sary considered her options and determined that she preferred the hands-on aspect of weatherization and was happy that it built on her past experience in finished carpentry. Like a growing number of successful women who are working in home performance, she enrolled in a pre-apprenticeship program at Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc., and also accessed help through WorkSource Oregon, the state’s resource for businesses and jobseekers. She was eventually hired by a contractor, received on-the-job training support and also found more funding for advanced trainings in air and duct sealing and building performance. Sary’s particular journey was funded by a series of grants tied to transforming energy efficiency markets and putting people back to work.
Today, she is enjoying meeting homeowners and hearing the story of their houses and what they want to do. She feels like an “absolute success story” and is committed to making the most of her opportunity so the investments that were made in her are there for others.
That is why she went to Salem last week, she said.
“I’m a professional now. It seems uncomfortable to go back and relive the past, but it was way more positive than I thought it was going to be,” she said. “My story is a testament to the demographics of the unemployed. We’re often educated. We’re often hardworking. We’re often experienced. We simply need the tools to get into a market like this.”