NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Opportunity Works’ Justin Sanchez


Walking into Opportunity Works, you hear classical music playing from the welcome desk. The staff instantly greet you, and quickly help you get to where you need to go.

The building may be new, but the bonds between the staff and students there are richly rooted. Each person has a profound story to tell, like Justin Sanchez.

Justin Sanchez is 27 years old and has been at the Haverhill location of Opportunity Works for about six months.

Sanchez is in Club 22, works as a receptionist at Opportunity Works, and has the name of “helper” with math, cooking, and much more. Club 22 is a program “for people with disabilities: it helps you achieve goals, the staff helps you out,” said Sanchez.

Sanchez was born into divorce, and his sister’s father raised him.

“I was a terrible baby, threw toys at my door,” he said.  

“I’m a caring person, I treat people with respect … I’m here if anyone needs to talk, I don’t like it when people are sad. Oh yeah, I’m Puerto Rican –          I speak Spanish and French.”

When he was just a baby he traveled to the Dominican Republic. “I got bit by something, (which meant) I had to relearn everything… it was scary,” he said.

Sanchez took all the pain, obstacles, negativity and doubt thrown at him, and simply decided being a stronger man was more important than staying down on himself for the rest of his life.

Destiny Farley, a friend from high school, said that one of Sanchez’s best qualities is his sense of humor. “He’s a jokester; always laughing, smiling.”

In middle and high school, Sanchez got straight A’s in addition to playing football, basketball and baseball.

To him, nothing else matters except “to make people happy. I don’t like it when people are sad, it makes me sad.” Through all his struggles, he still wanted to help others be happy. “Without confidence, you can’t succeed in life,” he said. Sanchez has found his passion in public speaking. He has even spoken at the Opportunity Works annual golf tournament at the Haverhill Country Club.

“Public speaking for Opportunity Works is my favorite thing because I’m confident in what I’m doing. I’m not afraid,” said Sanchez.

The staff of Opportunity Works know Justin Sanchez well, collectively applauding his helpful nature. Just walking down the hallways with Justin and talking, people stopped Justin to high five him and say something about his character. Sanchez said,

“Debbie is my favorite person at Opportunity Works. She is a down to earth person, helps you wherever you’re stuck- like I can’t count money, she helps me out.”

Staff coordinator Deborah “Debbie” Hogan-Vicente reciprocated this affection, saying that Sanchez is “a great guy. He is a pleasure to have in our Club 22 program. He is also very helpful when needed.”

“He always has clever things to say. He’s witty, cheerful, caring, shows a genuine interest in others,” said Jim Field, Job Developer in Project Research for Opportunity Works.

Sanchez will be going through the Project Research Program in October to find a job. He aspires to be in forensics.

“I watch ‘Two and a Half Men,’ but my favorite is ‘CSI Miami,’ ‘CSI Cyber,’ anything like that – that’s what I want to do in life,” he said with an optimistic smile.


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