Everybody knows Francis Berrios, our Administrative and Billing Specialist. She always comes to work with a smile on her face, ready to help anyone who needs it. Not surprisingly, Francis has been a helper since she was a child. She grew up in Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela and was the middle child of a brother and sister. She was a model student and all around nice kid. Because of that, she was often the favorite of many of her schoolteachers. She acted as a teacher’s assistant of sorts, helping them so much she would sometimes miss the bus home after school had ended.
Francis loved her school, Colegio Fe y Alegria Puerto Ordaz (which translates to School of Faith and Happiness – a perfect fit for our Francis!). She studied there for thirteen years, keeping busy in extracurriculars, playing volleyball and running track. In high school, she avoided learning English because she found the language difficult. “That’s really funny because I’m here right now,” she tells me.
She thought she would study public relations – she loved communication and wanted to spend her life talking with people. She never thought then that she would leave Venezuela.
In Venezuela, Francis had the option of attending specialized courses in her last high school years through a program called INCE Apprentice. She chose to study business administration, the closest track to public relations she could find. The program was structured so she would have a year of study and a practical year, where she worked at one of the most important agencies in the area at the time. She graduated with honors.
College was a challenge. Francis was raising her son by then and it was difficult to juggle having a very young child at home while studying. She says she is grateful for her husband’s support. He pushed her to continue when she wanted to quit. Her college friends also helped by keeping her informed about what was going on when she had to miss class. Eventually, she graduated. “Yeah, I did it!” she says.
Francis soon gave birth to her daughter and after her children were a little older, she began traveling to other countries, as she and her husband considered relocating. Venezuela was already experiencing a social and economic crisis. In one memory, she describes there being nothing on the shelves and no milk at the grocery store for weeks on end. She was scared she wouldn’t have what she needed to keep her kids healthy. “I really love my country,” she says, but it was too hard to stay.
Her husband chose the United States. Francis was hesitant because she was scared to learn another language. But as things continued to deteriorate in Venezuela, she agreed to the move. “I don’t know what will happen, but I will go,” she says, describing how she felt. “I will learn.”
It’s how she approaches most challenges. That motto has made her resilient and adaptable.
Today, Francis has been in the U.S. for six years. She misses the people in Venezuela and her favorite park, La Llovizna, but she has found things she loves about Pinellas, including the many parks in the area. She is an avid photographer and loves to travel and take pictures.
La Llovizna, Puerto Ordaz, Venezuela – a waterfall at the confluence of the Orinoco and Caroní Rivers.
Francis was working at the Hispanic Outreach Center when she heard about the administrative position at GLS. She felt an intuition, she says, about the position. She was nervous about applying – she would have to speak English all the time and it would be a big step up in her career. But with every opportunity, she says, there is only a yes or a no. If you get a no, nothing changes and that’s okay. But what if you get a yes?
She took the leap and interviewed with the admin team. We immediately knew she was the one for the position and she began a few weeks later.
Francis says the position has challenged her and helped her grow. She gets quiet and tender when she talks about the work she does here. She struggles to describe how much GLS means to her before finally landing on the word “godsend.” It’s funny, I tell her, because that’s what her supervisor, Emely, uses to describe her.
“Francis has been a godsend to GLS. She goes above and beyond in her duties and always has a smile. That is what she is known for. In the busiest of times, and some stressful even, we would ask her how she feels and she would answer how happy and grateful she is to be a part of the GLS family! She is so thoughtful with every detail of her work. She’s taken on duties with grace and ambition to learn more. I am thankful to call her not only my coworker but my friend.”
– Emely Laporte
In the future, Francis is happy to continue doing reports and working in the billing area. She also loves helping with fundraising events and is excited for GLS to slowly begin to reopen.
Thank you for picking GLS, Francis! Your positive attitude and outlook on life constantly amaze us. You are a testament to how far hard work, accepting new challenges, and a strong sense of motivation can take a person. You inspire us every day. We love you!