Starting A Career

A Journey to Financial Freedom

Like a number of her fellow students, Esperanza Maldonado entered New Community’s Automotive Training Program when she was living at a halfway house. But the program proved to be the path to upward mobility. Upon graduation, the 27-year-old was hired as a sales person at a Hillside auto dealership.

“I have the gift of gab,” Maldonado said. “I love selling cars. It’s a blessing really. I could never have gotten a job like this anywhere else.”

At the time the mother of a 7-year-old son, Maldonado noted that she became interested in the automotive program because she likes cars. Upon graduation, she planned to open her own auto body shop after returning to school to get a degree in business and marketing.

The salesperson and student kept a crushing schedule at the time. She was living in Paterson and did not have a driver’s license because of outstanding fines. To get to New Community’s Automotive Training Center in Newark, she had to leave home at 6 a.m. and take two different buses, the Newark subway and then another bus. Then, when classes were finished at 1 p.m., she took two more buses to get to work at the Union County dealership, Hillside Auto Mall, by 2 p.m. If she was unable to snag a ride from a coworker, Esperanza did not get home until 11:30 at night.

Maldonado testified before a legislative committee in Trenton in favor of provisional drivers’ licenses that would allow a person to drive to and from work or school.

“You do things and there are consequences, but when do they end?” she asked.

Maldonado was determined to pay off her fines and have her driving privileges restored. “I feel like I’m in an upward spiral,” she said.  “I’ve already been at the bottom so there is no place to go but up and I’m enjoying the journey.”