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News MRC Partnership with Lowell Education Center Provides Career Opportunities

For the last 26 years, Lowell's Senghap Roeun has spent his time focused on education.
5/20/2022
  • Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission
a Cambodian man with dark hair and wearing a blue suit smiling

For the last 26 years, Lowell's Senghap Roeun has spent his time focused on education. In 1984, he left Cambodia following the Civil War and relocated to the United States. He was able to finish his education and obtain a Master's degree in education to show his children that his past didn't define him and that they could take part in the American dream with hard work. He has partnered professionally with the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) to help students start their careers.

In 1996, he moved from New York and found his home in Lowell, Massachusetts. After serving as the chairman and program director for the Lowell Charter School, Senghap took a step back to care for his wife when she was diagnosed with cancer. As her health recovered and she regained her strength, he decided to open an education center. It began with creating certification classes for nail technicians, but it slowly grew into something more. "I tell people I have two jobs. I teach, and the second is I help them make money."

That one class eventually became the Lowell Education Center (LEC). The LEC now offers seven different courses that focus on career training and general education. Students can be certified as aestheticians, nail techs, and CNAs. They can study electronic assembly, website creation, and graphic design. Senghap has even introduced a financial education and licensing program. Students also have access to ESL, CPR, and US Citizenship classes. "When I came to America, I didn't know school was an option, and I didn't know these licensing programs existed," Senghap shared. What excites him about the work he is doing now is that he's providing opportunities to people, especially Asian and Pacific Islanders. "When people graduate, they have a job."

LEC has been a Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) partner for ten years, mainly teaming with the Salem and Lowell vocational rehabilitation (VR) offices. The partnership offers individuals seeking careers the opportunities to gain certification and placement in jobs and offers them education outside of traditional learning avenues. As a contract partner with the agency, MRC reimburses LEC for skills training for the consumers we refer to them.

The partnership is unique because Asians and Pacific Islanders, specifically from Southeast Asia, who enter the country may not have the resources or support systems necessary to succeed. But, if they are eligible for MRC services, the programs at LEC offer certifications and programs focused on "short-term" training sessions. MRC VR Counselor Samnang Khoeun has worked with the LEC and Senhap for five years and has seen the success for himself. "He welcomes me to the Lowell Education Center and invites me to work there as an outreach opportunity once a week," says Khoeun. "Mr. Roeun and LEC have been a great community partner for MRC and a great resource for our jobseekers."

"We're open to anyone who wants to learn. Specifically, those who lack formal education," said SenHap. He's most proud of offering financial literacy and licensing courses. "Financial education moves me the most. When we first started the program, there were four students. Now I teach more than 100 people to be licensed in the financial field. Those are changing the lives of other people."

"I hope I can expand the program to the majority of the state," said Senghap. "This format we have created can help people in every community. I ask myself, what can I do to help other people reach financial security and the American dream."

Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission 

The Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission (MRC) helps individuals with disabilities to live and work independently. MRC is responsible for Vocational Rehabilitation, Community Living, and Disability Determination for federal benefit programs.
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