Uprooting to another country as an adult might sound intimidating. For a teenage girl, it can be like a nightmare. But that is what Sylvia Dorisme had to do in order to better her life.
Financial aid did not exist back home in the Caribbean, and Dorisme’s mother could not afford to pay for her six children to go to school. So, at just 14, Dorisme was sent to the United States to earn an education.
Dorisme endured a lengthy immigration process to obtain her citizenship. She got by in her initial classes with broken English. When the school bell rang, she had no real home to go to. Just spare rooms offered to her by family friends.
But she made the most of her opportunities and graduated with a business degree from Hodges University.
Dorisme got a job with a local career school but when the economy turned in 2008 she was let go. She couldn’t find replacement work, despite her versatile degree, and after finding that many others also needed to get on their feet quickly, she decided to open Southwestern Vocational Training in Cape Coral.
“I saw a need in the community and wanted to offer something different than the traditional school setting. I wanted to help people get to work in a faster pace, so I went for it,” Dorisme says. “It has been a very challenging journey, but we found a niche here … and we’ve been able to help over 2,500 people.”
Students of the post-secondary career school are primarily Hispanic, Dorisme says, so Spanish-speaking services are available. Select courses in Spanish are in the works, too.
“We’re finding a lot of Hispanic people don’t want to take our classes because they are afraid to do it in English because they don’t really understand it. It doesn’t mean those individuals are not smart or they don’t do a good job. But they prefer to have it in their language,” Dorisme says.
Dorisme’s drive to help others succeed does not end with the school. She is currently working with another organization to create Sis to Sis, a nonprofit which provides shelter and success tools for young pregnant women in Haiti, where her family is from.
“When I started my professional career I was blessed to have individuals who cared enough to give me opportunities … and you know what they say: ‘When you are blessed you also have to bless others.’ So my ultimate goal is to pass on that blessing to others who need it.”