In a large classroom at the Heart of Texas Christian  Women’s Job Corps, eight women listened Thursday morning as a young man named Albert Salazar told them about overcoming a past that includes drug use.

“The spiritual realm is real … I give (God) the glory … you’re a child of God. Don’t live in the past … be kind to your neighbor,” Salazar, a member of the Austin Avenue Church of Christ, told the women in an informal back-and-forth session.

The women — ranging in age from 19 to 50 — will be attending the annual dinner and live dessert auction fundraiser at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Coggin Avenue Baptist Church.

Rex Tackett will be the auctioneer, and music will be provided by Suzanne Schad, a senior music education major at Howard Payne University.

Tickets are $25 each. Anyone who still needs a ticket has until Friday to buy one by calling 643-1788. Callers can leave a message and have tickets reserved for them at the event.

The Christian Women’s Job Corps, at 2410 Coggin, is a faith-based job preparation nonprofit which helps local women learn workplace skills.

Funded by donations and staffed mostly by volunteers, the  ministry offers a free 12-week program teaching job and life skills including English, math, computers, bookkeeping, resume writing and job interviewing skills also are included.

Participants receive tips on dealing with co-workers, and they can even go on a practice job interview that sometimes leads to employment after their one semester at the ministry.
A room filled with women’s clothes and shoes is available for those who need a professional appearance for a job interview or a job.

In the back-and-forth with Salazar, a young woman tearfully told of becoming pregnant when she was 16. 

The woman said she’s attending the Christian Women’s Job Corps and night school “to make my life better for my baby girl. … I came here, I found my faith again,” the woman said.

Natalie Sliger, 19, explained what the women do at the Christian Women’s Job Corps.

“We have a Bible study in the morning, every morning for an hour, and then we have different classes in bookkeeping, math, English, computers, people-smart skills, resume typing,” Sliger said.

“We get to share things, and just talk about the Lord sometimes.  It’s really an awesome experience.”

Desirea Holmes, 28, said the Christian Women’s Job Corps “is like a prerequisite for life — it’s not just academic here. It’s improving literally every area of your physical life and your spirit.

“It’s a phenomenal experience  … this is undoubtedly the best group of people I’ve ever met in my life. If anyone has the available schedule to do this and they feel like they need it, they need to do it.”

Christy Barron, 29, said, “I used to work for CPS so I have college and I have life experience, but I needed this.” 

Terri Baker, 50, said she joined the program to better herself. “I have no experience with computers. I’m lacking in my math skills,” Baker said.

‘A big trauma in my life’

Former Christian Women’s Job Corps student Amanda Mascorro will speak at the dinner Tuesday night.

Mascorro, 31, graduated from Brownwood High School in 2005 and attended the Christian Women’s Job Corps in the spring of 2018. She works at Advantage Office Products.

Mascorro said she’ll talk about “a little bit of my past and what I’m overcoming right now, which is just getting away from drugs and alcohol and just bettering my life. 

“I just benefitted from all the classes that they offered. It refreshed some math, English, just your basic skills. They also had a resume class, money management.”

In 2014, Mascorro was assaulted by an ex-boyfriend with whom she’d had no contact and did not expect to see again.

Mascorro had just gotten home from her job at Walmart, and the man — who’d just gotten into town and managed to find out where Mascorro lived — broke into her home.

“He came into my home, unwanted, pulled the window unit out, dragged me from my room to my brother’s room, beat me with a power drill,” Mascorro said.

The man stood trial in 35th District Court. A jury quickly convicted the man and handed down two life sentences.

“It was a big trauma in my life,” Mascorro said. “Instead of getting the help I needed, I went off and self-medicated. So therefore I just kind of let go of my life.

“It was pretty heavy. It was a bad circumstance, just trying to come through that. That’s kind of what we’re going to be talking about Tuesday, and then how I’ve just become a better person.”

Mascorro said she’s stayed in touch with director Casey Moore, co-founder Bettie Evans and others from the Christian Women’s Job Corps. 

“Just being able to stay in touch with these women and knowing that they’re here for me and support me in anything I do has really been a big help.

“It was like the stepping stone that I needed to continue to do better in my life.”

Mascorro said her life now “is in a much better place. I started going to church. I attend Victory Life. My life feels more fulfilling.”