My Co-Op Experience: OPS Learn and Work by Melanie Munoz
By Melanie Munoz
My name is Melanie and I am here today to share my success story as a result of my participation in the coop program – OPS Learn and Work.
My journey began in September 2012. I was in my late teens and a high school dropout and my life revolved around friends and parties. My parents nagged me to finish school but I was too stubborn to care. My mother and my father worked very hard both day and night to make sure my brother and I had everything because they didn’t have much growing up. Looking back now, I regret not appreciating them more at that time in my life.
In the fall of 2012, I enrolled in the Co-Op Program, but I was still not in a good mindset, despite making the commitments to my teacher, that I would attend regularly and apply myself. I was placed as an administrative assistant at a government office. My biggest challenge that I faced continued to be my attendance.
At first my attendance was as expected but after a few weeks I was absent as often as I was there, sometimes only attending two out of four placement days. Of course, this behaviour didn’t last too long. My Co-Op Manager sat me down one day and told me that if I continued on this path I could lose my placement and my high school credits, too. Up until that moment, I never really understood the meaning of personal responsibility. I will never forget the tone in his voice on that day. He was talking to me as a manager but also as someone who cared for my future. I recall calling my teacher in tears for her words of encouragement and she left me with this challenge: “Melanie, you can do this.” That day changed the direction of my life and forced me to think seriously about my future, the value of the people around me, and the courage I needed to overcome the obstacles ahead of me.
Just as I was making critical decisions about my future, I found out that I was pregnant. All of a sudden, I was not thinking about “my future” but “our future.” While challenges to get to placement on time included crowed busses while experiencing morning sickness, fatigue and fear of failure, I wanted nothing more than to work harder for my family and to better myself. My child and the support of the OPS Learn and Work Program at that time in my life motivated and inspired me to better myself. I began for the first time to believe in myself and that failure was no longer an option. Believing and Motivation are everything.
The co-op program did wonders for me on many levels. I not only received the mentorship from my manager, workplace buddies and teacher at a time when I really needed it, I also acquired and developed skills that I never thought I could. Today, I am able to provide advice and guidance to clients. I can perform general clerical duties such as such as filing, record maintenance, use computers and software and answer telephone calls. I have teamwork skills. I learned how to work with others as a group and take action when necessary.
Shortly after I completed my term as a Co-op Student, I continued my education and graduated from high school. I had a little girl who is now two and a half years old.
I kept in touch with my Co-Op manager and he continued to encourage me to seek employment with the Ontario Government. I just completed 3 years of contract work and just recently, I was offered a permanent position.
Today, I am in a place I thought I would never be. I am truly grateful to have been involved in this program then and am honored to be able to be here today to share my story about the role the OPS Learn and Work Program has played in my life.
Thank you to everyone who supported me: my parents, managers, colleagues. You are all awesome. A special thanks to my husband for pushing me every single day to strive to do better and of course for waking me up in the mornings because without him it would be very hard! I learned that “There is no failure except in no longer trying.”