Selene Castro is no stranger to adversity. She has been fighting an uphill battle for years and while some would crumble under the pressure, it is has left her strong and more determined than ever.
Castro grew up in the Seattle area; she moved from the Central District to Rainer Valley and attended Franklin High School. “Manufacturing wasn’t something I ever thought about. After high school, I worked in health care for a long time.” However, Castro would fall victim to an all too common narrative and became addicted to prescription drugs.
“I had fibroids, (which is a non-cancerous tumor that grows inside your uterus) which were extremely painful. I bled a lot and ended up being anemic. So, the doctors ended up giving me painkillers,” Castro added, “At first, I took the medication for what it was prescribed for. I would go get the prescription twice a year but then it got to the point where I would keep needing it more. Because of my addiction, I ended up getting fired from my job.”
Castro was let go from a job that she had for almost 15 years, which would be a tough position for anyone, but she was an addict, she needed to numb her pain. She explains, “Once I lost my job, my addiction got worse. It went from taking those pills here and there, to needing them to wake up, I needed them to function throughout the day—it was a 24-hour commitment.”
Castro needed money to fuel her addiction and wound up getting in trouble with the law. Instead of spending a year in prison, she enrolled in The Drug Offender Sentencing Alternative (DOSA). DOSA involves a 3-month rehabilitation, which Selene says played a huge factor in her recovery.
When Castro went home, she continued her DOSA program with outpatient care, however, she was scared of falling back into her old habits. “I was scared to get a job and meet people that were in the closet addicts, I didn’t want my routines to be normal or get into anything that could be a trigger.”
Pursuing a career in healthcare was no longer an option, but Castro needed a job to help support her family. She reached out to a local social enterprise company, Pioneer Services, in Seattle, whose mission is to provide individuals with criminal histories the opportunity to lead healthy, productive lives.
After speaking with the manager at the Pioneer Manufacturing Facility in Seattle, Castro was encouraged by what she heard, “The manager said he was in prison since he was a teenager, for 25-years, and when he got out, he couldn’t get a job. He said he didn’t know how to work on anything in the plant [when he started]. So, he took me around and showed me all the different machines and it was like, ‘Oh, I like these things, something to keep my mind busy. I like working with my hands and trying to figure things out, maybe I’ll try this.’”
Castro learned about AJAC’s Manufacturing Academy through her case manager and decided to start her journey towards her new career. She got a part-time job to supplement her income and started the program in October 2019.
She came into the program with little background knowledge, “I know so much more then I knew when I came here, I learned so much. I knew how to read blueprints but I had no clue about the math behind it all.”
She pushed herself in class and learned about CNC and manual machines, how to operate a forklift and understand lean manufacturing. Her instructor Aleksandr Derlyuk had high-praise of Selene from the first day, “I was amazed at the perseverance and growth that Selene has shown throughout the program.”
Derlyuk hopes that other people can be inspired by Selene’s story, “Someone like Selene proves that the Manufacturing Academy has the ability to change someone’s life trajectory in a major way.”
Now that she graduated from the Manufacturing Academy, Selene is looking to further her education at South Seattle College where she will pursue CNC Programming. She hopes this step will lead her to an apprenticeship opportunity with AJAC and is excited to start a less tumultuous next chapter in her life.