Maribel Surita Excels in Upward Mobility Program

Tags: Employee Stories, VisionCorps

VisionCorps’ Administrative Assistant for Business Development and Marketing wasn’t going to be denied her current position in VisionCorps’ Lancaster offices. Nor was she going to be denied an opportunity to succeed in VisionCorps’ Upward Mobility program, which offered her a chance to chase down her dream and a better life for her and her loved ones.


“There were a lot of times I would get frustrated and feel like I wasn’t going to make it,” she recalled. ”But I said, ‘No! I have to make it. I have to reach my goal for a better life.’ ”


Maribel is the first person to graduate from VisionCorps’ Upward Mobility program, initially presented to employees three years ago. Upward Mobility isn’t offered annually, VisionCorps’ Director of Human Resources Beth Tice noted, but only when a position is open.


“We want to provide opportunities for advancement to employees who may not otherwise have the chance,” said Erica Evans, VisionCorps’ Recruiting and Development Clerk. “Upward Mobility is a 12-month program that requires hard work and dedication and encourages the individual to strive for more.”


The program is offered to blind or vision impaired employees who have been with VisionCorps for at least one year.


Maribel, like her brother Jose, has Albinism, a congenital condition characterized by a lack of pigment in skin, hair and eyes. Often with albinism, the eye does not produce enough melatonin during development, which causes parts of the eye to evolve abnormally, affecting vision.


At the time Upward Mobility was offered, Maribel was working as a production employee in the Enterprise Group in Lancaster. She enjoyed her job and the people she worked with, but when the Upward Mobility program was offered, Maribel signed on.


“I was nervous about it,” she said, knowing that of the several employees who applied, only one would be chosen. Still, the Puerto Rico native and product of Passaic, N.J. was thankful for an opportunity not presented by her previous employer.


Prior to coming to VisionCorps, Maribel had worked for Winston-Salem Industries for the Blind (now IFB Solutions), sewing troop uniforms for the government. She worked there for five years, but said the company didn’t provide employees opportunities to move up.


At the suggestion of her friend and VisionCorps employee, Hiram Medina, Maribel moved to Lancaster. She was hired by VisionCorps and was eventually given the career opportunity she dreamed of. She applied for Upward Mobility, but told Hiram she likely wouldn’t be chosen by VisionCorps’ internal panel because there were those whose knowledge of computers was greater than hers.


When Esmeralda Sanchez, VisionCorps’ Director of Human Resources at that time, told Maribel she was the panel’s “chosen one,” Maribel could barely believe it.


“I screamed and tears came down,” she recalled. “I was so excited.”


Esmeralda warned Maribel it was going to be a “hard year,” but Maribel had a ready reply.


“I’m up for it.”


What followed was a time-intensive, year-long schedule of courses and lessons that only began when her 7 a.m.-3 p.m. workday in EG ended. She was in training daily from 3 p.m. to 4-4:30 p.m., and spent evenings studying as well. She enrolled in the Hadley Institute for the Blind and also studied National Industries for the Blind Business Basics and Integrated Behavioral Health.


“The training was all on my own time,” she said. “But I always said that if I wanted this position and wanted to do better for myself and my family, I would have to put everything I have into it.”


VisionCorps provided the tools and support, and she received additional support from family and friends.


“When you really want to reach something,” Maribel said, “you have to put all your effort into it and don’t let anybody tell you that you can’t do it.”


Legendary golfer Arnold Palmer said once that the “most rewarding things you do in life are often the ones that look like they cannot be done.”


Maribel agrees. The Upward Mobility program is difficult, she said, but she recommends it to anyone who has a strong desire to reach a goal.


“You go through a tunnel but at the end of the year you see the light and you realize the hard work is worth it,” she said.


“I’m glad I was the first person in the (Upward Mobility) program. It’s made a big difference in my life.”