Jamel Parnell: Exploring Opportunities with Urban Upbound

After hearing about Urban Upbound from a cousin, Jamel Parnell contacted us in early 2020, right before the pandemic started. Following a string of temporary jobs, he longed for a stable position. Finding jobs in design, his field of interest, was not easy before COVID. During the pandemic, it became even more so.

Jamel had enrolled at City Tech, a City University of New York’s (CUNY) college, in the summer of 2008 to pursue a degree in design. Unfortunately, he had to put school on pause when tuition became unaffordable for him. So he decided to look for full-time work and start saving enough money to continue his degree in the near future.

Having earned enough credits to receive an associate’s degree, Jamel was able to find jobs related to design, including at an audiovisual company and an advertising agency. However, the jobs were always project-based. Without a permanent job, years passed and every time he felt he had saved enough money, tuition fees kept getting out of reach.

Working with an Urban Upbound employment counselor, he was able to secure a few interviews. Then, in mid-2020, he was referred to an opportunity for an office assistant job at a community health center. Jamel was doubtful he would get the job as it required experience in the medical field. Our counselor encouraged him to apply regardless. Jamel was invited for an interview and the employer took an interest in him, especially because of his computer skills and experience with tough clients.

A few months later, he got the job! He was asked to submit his associate’s diploma and complete some mandatory vaccinations. Alas, because of a clerical error, his diploma had never been properly recorded. Overwhelmed with his employment and financial woes, he had been putting off fixing this problem. With the job on the line, he summoned the courage to confront the school and get his diploma. Finally fulfilling the last requirement, Jamel started working in mid-March 2021. Soon after, he realized that a lot of his skills in design translated to his current role. With a stable job, he is now turning his focus to other goals, such as paying off debt and starting on his savings.

During the pandemic, Urban Upbound’s services have continued to help New Yorkers who need a hand up. From employment and financial counseling to food relief and direct financial assistance, your donation makes it possible for us to keep reaching more households. If you’d like to learn more about our impact and work, please follow us on social media (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube) or subscribe to our newsletter.

A collection of stories around NYC’s public housing communities curated by Urban Upbound, a non-profit organization with a mission to break cycles of poverty.