Merced County Office of Education

Student Success Stories

​​ EMPOWER Student Success​​​

Janessa Alves

Foundations in Early Education

Instructor – Donna Acheson

Janessa Alves began Foundations in Early Childhood Education in July 2017.  On September 18, 2017 Janessa started her site at Merced College Child Development Center in Darlene Day's toddler classroom.

Her experience in the classroom has given her a new understanding of the importance of a child's development.  She has worked closely with the children truly forming a beautiful bond and relationship with them all, through one on one interaction to group routines and activities.  It has been on honor to be a part of the children's development molding them to reach their full potential.

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After receiving Merced College Articulation for 6 units of credit in the following classes

  • CLDV 30C Infant Toddler Curriculum – 2 units
  • CLDV 35 Infant & Toddler Development – 2 units
  • CDLV 35L Infant & Toddler Practicum – 2 units

Janessa was hired at Merced College Child Development Center as a Teacher in the Earth Room as of April 2018.  This was due to the work performance and skills she had obtained through this program.

This July Janessa will be applying for her Child Development Permit from the State of California as an Assistant in any Infant Toddler Child Care Program. 

 She is planning on continue her education at Merced College this fall. Janessa's goal is to complete her A.A. Degree and Bachelor's Degree in Child Development.  Working towards becoming a preschool teacher. Janessa feels this has been an amazing opportunity, all thanks to the Early Childhood Education Program. 

IMG_2552.jpgAthena Xiong

Athena Xiong enrolled into the EMPOWER program on January 19, 2017.  She was a 23 year old and a high school graduate with little work experience. Athena's main goal with EMPOWER was to complete a training and become employed.

Athena likes working with her hands and wanted to learn to drive a forklift. Therefore, on March 7, 2017, she was enrolled in the ROP Logistics-Warehouse training. Athena attend all classes and worked very hard to complete the training. On May 10, 2017, Athena earned the Warehousing and Logistics Certificate of Completion.

After the training, Athena was prepared to participate in work experience. Athena's highest vocational interests were Industrial and Mechanical, so she was placed at Quad/Graphics a forklift driver.  Athena's on the job performance showed high levels of competency, proficiency, and responsibility. Prior to Athena completing the work experience hours, the manager asked her to apply for a position with Quad/Graphics and she was hired full-time, starting July 1, 2017.

Athena has been successfully employed with Quad/Graphics for over a year. In that time, she was promoted to dispatcher and is now earning well above minimum wage. Athena also decided to return to college.  She enrolled at Merced College and started on January 16, 2018 to earn her AA.

 Yoeli Mancilla

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Yoeli enrolled into the EMPOWER Program in January, 2017. Yoeli came into the program with no work history.  Additionally, she had to quit college for financial reasons. Yoeli participated in all the EMPOWER workshops and successfully completed an employability portfolio. Yoeli and her advisor developed an action plan to get her on a career pathway that aligned with her PESCO results. Yoeli selected Foundations in Early Education as the CTE program that would lead her into a career path in education. She completed the program successfully in June, 2016, and obtain part-time employment with Tanya's Tiny Tots the following month. Yoeli also earned college credits for two Early Childhood Education (ECE) classes for completing the Foundations in Early Education course. Yoeli decided to continue her education in ECE and became a full-time student at Merced College this fall. Yoeli's goal is to become a Head Start Associate Teacher.


Luis Garibay

Luis Garibay enrolled into the EMPOWER Program on July 22, 2016 as an eighteen year old high school graduate with a dream of becoming a welder.  Luis completed the required two weeks of mandatory Empower Employability Workshops then met with his advisor to discuss available trainings and his personal goals. Luis shared that he wanted to become a welder and asked if he qualified for training in the Merced area. The EMPOWER Program advisor registered Luis into a Welding Training provided through the Central Valley Opportunity Center. EMPOWER paid for the training and all associated Support Services.

Through hard work and a steadfast commitment, Luis earned a Certificate of Completion in Welding and Industrial Maintenance on May 25, 2017. The Central Valley Opportunity Center and EMPOWER collaborated to assist Luis in finding suitable employment. Luis was offered a job with Gallo Wineries in Livingston, CA, as a welder's helper, earning $ 14.00 per hour. Luis is very proud to achieve his dream of becoming a welder and obtaining full-time employment. The EMPOWER program is proud that Luis is an excellent example of what hard work can accomplish. 


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Cheng Saechao enrolled into the WIOA EMPOWER Program in January 2017. She had been living independently on her own since she was 18 years old. Cheng attended all the EMPOWER workshops and completed her employability portfolio. She met with her advisor who provided her with CTE options that align with her vocational interests. Cheng selected Foundations in Early Education because Early Childhood Education (ECE) was her major at Merced College. Cheng graduated from the Foundations class, with a Certificate of Completion, in June 2017.  Cheng also earned six college credits in ECE units for completing the program. In order for a participant to graduate from the ECE program, they must first complete a student portfolio, which is graded by the staff at Merced College. Cheng's portfolio stood out as one of the finest portfolios that had ever been completed in the program. Cheng scored a 498 out of a possible 500 on her portfolio. Cheng's portfolio will now be used as the standard portfolio for all of Merced County Early Childhood Education programs.

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Daniel Hernandez

When Daniel enrolled into the WIOA EMPOWER Program on January 24, 2017, he had recently graduated from high school, but did not have a clear vision regarding his “next steps" in life.  Daniel was not interested in attending a formal college, so, his MCOE EMPOWER Career Advisor presented him with several Career Technical Education options related to his identified Career Pathways.  Daniel chose to enroll into the MCOE Adult ROP Logistics and Warehousing Program.  He was VERY successful and earned a certificate on May 10, 2017.  Daniel is now a full-time employee at Smart & Final.  He works in shipping and receiving, operates a forklift, and is responsible for stocking the store. 

Daniel is an EMPOWER Success Story!

Hem Raj

Hem came into the EMPOWER Program with a high school diploma, but, he had no work experience.  Additionally, he lacked the basic job readiness skills to obtain and maintain employment.  Hem was interested in the Merced County Adult ROP Logistics and Warehousing class.  Hem graduated with high marks, which led to a full-time job with Laird.  Hem is currently working in quality control/final assembly. Hem contributes his success to his EMPOWER Career Advisor and the Career Technical Program for Logistics and Warehousing. 

Hem Raj is an outstanding example of how EMPOWER assists youth in Merced County.  Congratulations Hem!!!

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Jovanni Dimas

Jovanni Dimas enrolled into the Empower program on January 19, 2017.  He was an 18 year old, high school graduate, with little work experience. Jovanni's goal was to gain skills and find employment to help his family financially.

Jovanni successfully completed the Empower workshops; where he gained employability skills, job preparation, and completed a professional portfolio. Jovanni then indicated that he enjoyed working with computers, and expressed an interest in enrolling in Break the Code a Web Development Training where Jovanni was introduced to Web Design, customer service, and social media strategies for small business.  He had an opportunity to design his own website, and worked with a local business owner of the “Beauty Spot Boutique" to design a professional website for the business. Jovanni completed the training and earned a Certificate of Completion.

After the training, Jovanni made it evident that he wanted to participate in work experience. Jovanni s interest are business detailed oriented, and placed with the local Raley's grocery store in Merced.  Jovanni displayed high levels of competency, proficiency, and responsibility. His performance on the job indicated that he was customer services oriented, and hard working. Prior to Jovanni completing this work experience hours, the manager asked Jovanni to apply for a position as a courtesy clerk.  Jovanni has successfully been employed with Raley's for over a year.  Jovanni expresses his gratitude for the Empower program continually, and thankful that he now has a job to help his family.

Canela Fullbright McCoubryCanela Fullbright.jpg

When Canela entered the WIOA EMPOWER YOUTH Program, she had earned a BA, but, was not able to find a good paying job.  She lacked work experience and the skills to successfully navigate the interviewing process.  Canela completed all of the WIOA EMPOWER Workability workshops and completed the Break-The-Code WebMaster Program, earning a ChromeBook and a $600 stipend.  Next, Canela, completed paid work experience at Charles Wright Elementary School.  Canela so enjoyed her work at the elementary school that she took the C-BEST and is now working as a substitute teacher while working on her teaching credential.  The EMPOWER staff is very proud of Canela's accomplishments and look forward to her becoming a valued leader in Merced County.

Karina Manzo

Karina began her journey with the WIOA EMPOWER Program on October 18, 2016.  Prior to entering EMPOWER, Karina had attended San Joaquin Valley College and had earned a certification in business Administration.  However, after earning the certificate, she was unable to obtain employment.  Every road lead to a closed door.  Karina heard about a Medical Assisting opportunity through the MCOE EMPOWER Program and decided to enroll.  Karina was highly successful in the MCOE Adult ROP Medical Assisting Program.  Karina graduated from the Medical Assisting Program on May 10, 2017.  Through EMPOWER, Karina was able to participate in a paid Internship with Golden State Health Care.  On July 24, 2017, less than one year after joining EMPOWER, Karina became a full-time Medical Assistant at Golden Valley Health Care Center in Merced.  Karina has successfully combined the knowledge she gained from both programs to become a valuable and appreciated employee.  Karina is an EMPOWER Success Story!

EMPOWER male student photo Juan Garcia

Juan Garcia enrolled into the EMPOWER, a nineteen-year-old high school graduate, with no plans for school or never held a job. Juan completed the EMPOWER workshops and met with his advisor to discuss his vocational interests and trainings that can assist him with gaining employment.  Juan expressed an interested in becoming a security or school campus guard, and asked if he can attend security guard training. 

The advisor enrolled Juan in to security guard training, in which Juan earned his guard card last October. Juan is so excited to receive the training and feels ready for work experience. The Advisor placed Juan at the Merced Valley Community School as a school campus liaison that provided him with real work and hands on experience. Juan’s attendance and job performance gained him the opportunity to apply for a part-time campus liaison position with Merced Valley Community School. 

Juan applied for the position; he interviewed and hired for the part-time position on October 17, 2016.   Juan is so thankful to the EMPOWER program for providing him with the opportunity for training and employment. He is looking forward to the future to gain full time employment, and finally someday live in his own apartment.  

Valley High Job Site 

Yvette Munoz EMPOWER Female student smiling

Yvette Munoz enrolled into EMPOWER in June 2016. She came into EMPOWER hoping to get some work experience because she had none. Yvette expressed an high interest in information technology (IT). She had already taken a few classes at the college in computer science and knew that this was her career path. Her PESCO results also confirmed that this was a good fit for her. Yvette’s advisor placed her with Merced County Office of Education’s IT department as part of her work experience component. Yvette was responsible for greeting customers and putting work orders for MCOE. She also assisted the IT staff with their work orders and performed daily technology checks. With her knowledge and willingness to learn new things, Yvette was offered a part-time position with MCOE IT department which she gladly accepted. 

Yvette also joined Breaking the Code with MCOE. She learned how to build a website for a local business. She also earned $600 and a free chrome book for completing the six-week program. 

You can find Yvette at the MCOE IT help desk and driving around Merced County assisting IT technicians with various technology problems.  

EMPOWER male student operating forkllift  Philip Crabtree

Since Philip Crabtree’s younger years, he has been on a rollercoaster ride and endured his share of high and low moments in life with a blurred destination in sight. Numerous decisions he made eventually had him tangled in a web of institutional systems, hardships and much trepidations about his future.

In June 2014, a former EMPOWER member escorted Philip to the EMPOWER Program in hopes that he would be offered services that would support his renewed direction and focus in life - the desire to develop the necessary skills to jump start a career and move forward.  

After exploring his interests in the EMPOWER Employability trainings and being made aware of vocational trainings available by his EMPOWER Advisor, he was instantly interested in the Logistics & Warehousing Program. Upon successful completion of the EMPOWER trainings, Philip was referred to the Logistics & Warehousing Program where he received additional guidance and support from his instructor, Mr. Larry Garcia. 

Philip was confident that he found what he was searching for in the Logistics Program. Within three months of classroom training, he excelled at every aspect of the training and was ready to put his learning into practice. Philip was placed at Quad Graphics to complete on-the-job training as a Forklift Operator. In only two months, Quad Graphic decided to hire him as a Temporary Forklift Operator.

Philip plans on becoming a full time Forklift Operator at Quad Graphics by the end of the year and pursue additional education in the future. Philip’s positive character, drive, hard work and a network of people including his family, Logistics Instructor, EMPOWER Advisor, and employer has changed his lifestyle and outlook in life. 

Two EMPOWER females smiling because they received their Diplomas          EMPOWER MALE STUDENT RECEIVED HIS DIPLOMA

May Moua , Andrameda Rodriguez & Carlos Garcia 

all received their GED/Diploma

Beatriz Perez

When Beatriz Perez entered the EMPOWER Program in July, 2015, she was a young mother and had no work experience and no advanced training.  Beatriz was unable to find a good paying job to support herself and her family.  Her PESCO assessment reflected “Accommodating” as one of her strengths.  Beatriz indicated she would like to work with children/youth.  She was placed in paid Work Experience at the ASSETS Afterschool Program at Don Stowell Elementary School in Merced.  Although Beatriz did very well at her work site, she soon realized that she would rather work with adults.  Beatriz entered the MCOE Adult ROP Medical Assisting Program.  Beatriz aced the program and received high marks on her evaluations.  After completing her classroom programming, Beatriz was placed at Gettysburg Medical Clinic in Merced for her externship (work site experience related to the Medical Assistant Training).  Again, Beatriz was very successful!  Beatriz graduated with an Adult ROP Medical Assisting Certification on September 13, 2016 and was hired as a Medical Assistant at Mercy (Dignity Health) on September 29, 2016!  Beatriz worked hard and is now in a career she loves!


Sara Hernandez

Sara Hernandez enrolled into EMPOWER in July 2015. She knew that she wanted to enroll into the medical assisting program with Adult ROP. While in the ROP program, Sara received work experience in several medical businesses in Merced. She was an excellent intern with great attendance. Sara just completed the medical assisting program in September and was offered a full-time position as a medical assistant for Golden Valley Health Clinic. 


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Brayan Navarro 

Brayan Navarro enrolled into the EMPOWER program on November 13th, 2013. Brayan attended the EMPOWER orientation as a twenty year old high school graduate, living with his sister, and had never held a job for more than eight weeks.  Brayan's goals were to find work to support himself and eventually attend college.

Brayan successfully completed the EMPOWER workshops (where he gained employability and job preparation skills), participated in mock interviews, and completed a professional portfolio. Through hard work, Brayan proved to his EMPOWER Career Advisor that he was ready to work and asked to be placed in work experience.

The Career Advisor placed Brayan with a local business where he displayed high levels of competency, proficiency and responsibility. Unfortunately, at the completion of his work experience hours, the worksite was unable to hire Brayan because of a hiring freeze. This did not discourage Brayan as he continued to come into the EMPOWER office, on a frequent basis, to update his resume, conduct job searches and apply for jobs online.

Several months later, the Career Advisor had the opportunity to place Brayan at a new worksite (O'Reilly Auto Parts Store in Merced).  The supervisor was impressed with Brayan and hired him after only four weeks of work experience.

Soon after being hired at O'Reilly's, Brayan was hired at a second part-time job.  Brayan is presently working two part-time jobs. He recently moved out of his sister's home and is self-supporting.  Brayan has successfully gained his financial independence and is very grateful to the EMPOWER staff for all their assistance. Brayan is looking forward to meeting another goal… to start at Merced College.