Jalyssa’s Looking Up and Moving Forward in Her Career

Women of WMW

The Unlock Potential program for at-risk youth gave Jalyssa Zaragoza the tools to succeed and the confidence to thrive in her Sam’s Club career.

Jalyssa standing in front of a Sam's Club store front

Jalyssa Zaragoza says there wasn’t much hope when she was young. “My hope always got let down,” Jalyssa shares. Her mother was in the Dallas County Detention Center when she gave birth to Jalyssa, and she spent part of Jalyssa’s childhood in and out of detention centers.

Finding hope

At age 19, Jalyssa was introduced to Unlock Potential (UP), a groundbreaking hiring program that connects at-risk youth with major employers and provides them access to good jobs — which can lead to long-term careers.

When she heard about the 10-week UP program, Jalyssa says, “I was like, ok, this is it.”

Sam’s Club began its partnership with UP in 2022. In May 2023, Jalyssa was matched with a club in the Dallas, Texas, area. Through the program, Jalyssa got the chance to train in all areas of the club, working on skills ranging from fresh food production and member service to financial planning and effective communication.

Gaining confidence

While her fellow associates say Jalyssa was timid and quiet in her first days on the job, as time went on, Jalyssa’s confidence and her sense of hope and belonging blossomed. 

“When Jalyssa first started, our conversations were very minimal,” says Emilio Duarte, club manager. Gradually, she started asking questions, offering feedback and then suddenly Jalyssa was everywhere — the bakery one day, the member service desk next, then the café, the front line and even taking curbside orders out to members.

female Sam's Club associate with a bakery cart

“She’s really picked up on why we’re here,” Emilio shares. “It’s not just a job. It’s to serve our community, to serve our members and most importantly to serve our associates.”

After graduating from the 10-week UP program in August 2023, Jalyssa was offered a full-time position and has continued to grow her Sam’s Club career.

Looking forward

“Jalyssa’s especially interested in learning all areas of Fresh,” Emilio explains. “She’s currently cross training in HMS and as a decorator. She is picking up skills so quickly and is an integral part of the team!”

Jalyssa and her mom smiling at the camera

Jalyssa’s mom, Angelica (pictured above), says the program brought out a spark of leadership in her daughter. “My girl is going to turn into something way more than I could ever dream.”

“I’ve proved not only myself but the people around me wrong,” Jalyssa says. “I broke that cycle.”

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