PATERSON, NJ- Nearly 250 “courageous, beautiful, bright women” from across Paterson were celebrated on Wednesday for their efforts to empower themselves through the education offered at Oasis- A Haven for Women and Children. The students, hailing from 26 different countries, according to Jennifer Brady, the organization’s executive director, “encouraged each other, cheered each other on” and through their hard work and tenacity have created brighter paths for themselves and their families.

A non-profit social service agency which serves over 700 women and children in their Mill Street headquarters daily, Oasis focuses on empowering women and children to break the cycle of poverty. Their approach is a holistic one Brady explained, helping women meet many of the demands of parenthood by providing not just the education but also childcare and meals.

The results are overwhelmingly positive. 100 percent of the women that took industry exams passed, receiving certifications as bank tellers, customer service representatives, and as “servsafe managers” recognized by the National Restaurant Association; 207 received certificates for their newly learned computer skills, including in PowerPoint, Excel, and Microsoft Word; dozens are closer to earning their GED; and 16 became United States citizens with the help of Oasis’ citizenship classes.

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For Zulieka Diaz, a mother of five, obtaining her GED meant that she “took a big step” and opened up many new career opportunities. The aspiring chef who plans on attending Passaic County Community College in September to study culinary arts told TAPinto Paterson she couldn’t have done it without Oasis.

Born and raised in Paterson, Zulieka said going to her classes always put her in a happy mood, and the availability of childcare and summer camps was critical in her ability to succeed.

Just as proud of the newly “empowered” Zulieka was her nine year old daughter Jaynaliz. Even at her young age the third grader at Paterson School 29 recognized the work her mother put in to the classes at Oasis, and, sharing a passion for baking and decorating cakes and nice deserts, looked forward to helping her build a business.

The honor roll student and former student of the month believes that together she and her mother, along with the community, can make Paterson “bigger and clean.”

With the formal part of program over and a celebratory fiesta about to start, Brady reminded the women that their accomplishments weren’t the end of the road for their attachment to the center that provides so much help and support. They are, she told them “always part of the Oasis family.”