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With digital skills, a college grad reached her American dream

Today's post comes from Kimberly Paulissaint, a graduate of COOP, a Google partner with the mission to overcome underemployment by equipping first-generation and minority college graduates with digital skills.

When I was 12, my mother and I immigrated to the United States from Haiti to pursue better education and increased opportunity. Although I entered junior high school without knowing any English, I studied very hard and graduated as valedictorian, mostly due to my love for the world’s universal language—math. My dream, my American dream, was to graduate from college with a career that allowed me to work with numbers. The road to get there, however, had more barriers than I thought it would.

In 2010, an earthquake devastated Haiti, trapping my mother in the country while she was visiting family. She couldn’t leave, and I faced two options: single-handedly raise my 5-year old brother while also attending college or send him back to Haiti, ripping him away from the only life he knew in the United States. I chose the former and quickly realized the responsibility I had taken on. My days consisted of taking my brother to school in the early morning, attending college classes, and working long hours at the supermarket for $7.25 an hour. Without a doubt, the experience was incredibly challenging and forced me to grow quickly, but I powered through with the hope that earning my bachelors would lead to career opportunities. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case. All the jobs I applied for required internship experience, and those internships were unpaid. With little options, I worked as a customer service representative to make ends meet, leaving me unfulfilled with limited opportunity for advancement.

Kimberly Paulissaint

Kimberly Paulissaint

Then, I got an email from COOP, a nonprofit whose mission is to help diverse, low-income, and first-generation grads overcome underemployment with digital skills in tech, advertising and media. Although I had never considered a career in digital marketing, it seemed to align perfectly with my love for math so I immediately applied. My acceptance to COOP a few weeks later was one of the happiest moments of my life. 

I joined a 12-student cohort and dove into 200 hours of intense digital marketing training, led entirely by COOP alumni who worked in the industry and brought their practical knowledge to every lesson. My love for numbers was put into practice as we dissected SEO, SEM (my favorite!), Excel, and Google Ads. I also grew close with my fellow COOPers as we honed soft skills, such as interview practice and networking, which were integral to my personal development. 

Our graduation, so to speak, is the Google: Talent Match event, where we had the opportunity to meet recruiters from hundreds of agencies and advertisers. The event holds a special place in my heart—it’s where I secured my first job in digital marketing. Five years later, I’m a Media Activation Supervisor at Essence, and I genuinely enjoy the work I do. 

When I say that COOP and Google: Talent Match changed my life, I mean it. And it’s not just me. To date, 1,000 COOP alumni have been placed in entry-level positions through Google: Talent Match, and four-in-five alumni have overcome underemployment within a year. To continue this momentum, Grow with Google and COOP launched a new pilot program, MainStreet ONLINE, which connects 50 COOP grads with 150 New York small businesses to provide hands-on support in building an e-commerce site and online presence in time for the holiday season. Not only does the program digitally empower small businesses, but it also equips COOP graduates with job-ready ecommerce experience. I encourage you to learn more about the partnership by joining the upcoming Google: Talent Match event on Wednesday, November 18.

If it weren’t for my fellow COOPers and teachers, I would not be where I'm at today. It was because of their support that I built the confidence to excel in a career in digital marketing. Here are a few other proud graduates of COOP. They’ve shared a bit about themselves and their aspirations. 

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