Student thanks Job Corps Center in three languages

Pedro Penha of APP America LLC is pleased to assist his new employee Gina Martinez. Trilingual employees are hard to find, especially one like Martinez who is a fast learner and takes tremendous initiative.

Ask Gina Martinez what she has to say to Homestead Job Corps Center (HJCC) and she answers with the same word in three languages: gracias, obrigada, thanks.

Martinez speaks Spanish, Portuguese and English fluently. IC3 certified as an office administrative assistant by the Homestead Job Corps Center, she is grateful to Job Corps for her career technical training and also for her high school diploma.

Pedro Penha, general manager of APP America LLC, was recruiting for a trilingual administrative assistant and Martinez was the perfect candidate and was hired on the spot due to her outstanding qualifications.

Although born in the United States, Martinez lived most of her life in Argentina and Brazil. At the age of 21, she came to Florida on her own to begin her life at Homestead Job Corps Center. Job Corps, the nation’s largest career technical training and education program for low-income students ages 16 to 24, provided Martinez with the tools needed to be successful.

While at Job Corps she took ELL (English Language Learner) classes to learn the English language. Martinez even took evening classes at the South Dade Skills Center to master the language.

Martinez’s HJCC instructor, Efren Grafals said, “Determination and perseverance describe Gina’s attitude while on Center. In spite of a language barrier, Gina was able to accomplish her goals including becoming an administrative assistant at a local company; that’s impressive and an example of what trainees at Job Corps can accomplish with the right attitude.”

Penha, whose import/export office is in the Carrie Meek Business Center in Homestead, says 90 percent of his business is from Brazil, either over the phone or through their website. In his search for the perfect trilingual candidate, Penha asked Hilda Dennis of the Carrie Meek Business Center and Jerome Williams of Commonsense Management (also in the same Business Center) for resources. Both colleagues spoke highly of Homestead Job Corps Center.

Penha phoned the HJCC and said of his positive experience, “I could not have been more pleased with the way my request was handled. Merlyn Codallo, HJCC internship coordinator, scheduled an appointment right away for me to meet Gina. You can tell the staff really cares about the students. I’ve already recommended HJCC to another exporter in the South Dade area.”

Penha originally was looking to fill two positions: Web designer and administrative assistant.

“Gina is so capable, she does both jobs. I also could have outsourced the work, but I wanted someone in my office because the website changes every day. Gina works with little supervision, takes initiative and is well organized” Penha stated.

“Gina communicates with my colleagues and customers in such a professional manner. I was very lucky to find her because finding someone trilingual in Portuguese, Spanish and English is not easy,” Penha added.

Martinez feels lucky too.

“This is really my dream job. I am learning so much and Pedro is an awesome boss.”

When asked what she loves about the job, Martinez stated, “Everything! This is my kind of work. I get to work with linguistics every day which is my passion.”

Martinez’s father, who she gets tremendous strength and guidance from, encouraged Martinez to enroll in Job Corps to practice English and get a high school diploma.

“My father is so happy to know I completed everything at HJCC, moved into an efficiency of my own and landed a dream job,” Martinez said.

She was scheduled to march in the HJCC Commencement ceremony on Aug. 24.

Her message to other students is to “keep focused, do your work and get out into the real world. Remember that anything is possible. Don’t think twice. Try.”

Martinez’s future plans include traveling, going to college and advancing in her job.

Penha said of Martinez, “She has so much potential. I know she will accomplish everything she sets out to do.”

If you want to see firsthand the difference that Job Corps makes in the lives of young people, contact Lesly Diaz, Business and Community Liaison for Homestead Job Corps Center, at 305-257-4807 or via email to

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