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Growing up in Central Falls and North Providence, the son of Hispanic immigrants, Daniel Cordero dreamed of becoming a doctor. But reality, long nipping at his heels, finally tripped him up.
Lifespan started supporting Year Up Providence soon after the national job training organization began in Providence in 2005. A national organization, Year Up’s goal is to help disadvantaged young urban adults get on career tracks.
His family was poor and things only got more difficult when his parents split up, leaving him with the responsibility of helping raise his younger sisters. Lacking money for tuition, he dropped out of college, worked part-time jobs and couch surfed at friends' homes. Depression set in.
"I didn't know where I was going or if I was going to make it," he says.
Cordero, whose parents are from Mexico and Guatemala, was born in Los Angeles. His mother brought him to Rhode Island when he was four. Cordero spent so much time helping care for his two sisters that he was absent from North Providence High School 200 days and almost didn't graduate.
To his credit, Cordero, 22, is remarkably self-sufficient and industrious. He taught himself what he missed in the classroom – just as he taught himself the piano and how to play jazz and R&B. When he had to drop out of Rhode Island College, a social worker assisting his family suggested Year Up to him. But he continued to job hop, working for a while in a tool-making factory then taking a stab at door-to-door sales.
After he heard about Year Up again, this time from a friend, he applied and got accepted. It enabled him to collect a stipend while earning college credit for tackling such subjects as business writing, customer service and critical thinking. He was placed on Year Up's information technology track, which led to his assignment at Lifespan.
“The culture really prepared me to get better at interacting with others, everyone from doctors to patients,” he says. “Whenever I saw a Spanish-speaking person looking confused (on campus), I would ask if they needed help. That’s just the culture. The blend of Year Up and Lifespan was ideal for me in every single way. It got me out of my shell.”
Cordero did so well that he got hired as a client technologies technician, going out into the field to meet employees and resolve their IT problems.
"I always knew I could be successful," he says. "I wanted to make my own opportunities, but after realizing I could really use a hand I found that Year Up was really the perfect opportunity and provided the best resources I needed at the time."
During lunch breaks, Cordero sometimes plays piano at the Lifespan Cancer Institute. He calls it a great opportunity "to spread positive energy" for patients and their loved ones. At night and on weekends, he pursues becoming a physician's assistant by resuming his studies and working as an EMT. His regular Lifespan paycheck and benefits have allowed him to get his own apartment in North Providence.
Polite and mild-mannered, and friendly to the many staff members he recognizes in the hallways, Cordero now is asked to help oversee new interns.
"They know that I'm patient, that I like to help people," he says.