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Helping Those Who Help Themselves

Les Lak is being honored as a Promoting Citizenship in the Workplace Champion of Change.

Les Lak

Les Lak is being honored as a Promoting Citizenship in the Workplace Champion of Change.

My grandparents came to this country from Poland with nothing but the clothes on their backs, a strong work ethic, and desire for a better life. Today, their children and their children’s children are part of the backbone of this country. Because of the struggle of my grandparents, I can empathize with our employees at Blasch Precision Ceramics who are immigrants. We currently employ immigrants from countries all around the world, including Sudan, Yemen, Russia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Many of these people endured – and still endure – the same challenges that my grandparents endured almost a century ago. We are passionate about providing our employees with tools necessary to becoming U.S. citizens.

The Literacy Volunteers of Rensselaer County have played a key role in opening the door of opportunity to those who work for us looking for a better life in the United States. Founded in 1968, Literacy Volunteers of Rensselaer County (LVORC) is a nonprofit volunteer organization helping hundreds adults, families, and children learn how to read, write in, and speak English. Blasch works closely with our local chapter to provide workplace literacy instruction to our foreign-born workers. We understand that providing this service has enormous benefits to both the employees and Blasch. Employees participating in these classes increase are motivated to contribute more to the success of Blasch, ultimately contributing to our bottom line.

As part of this program, employees are able to take advantage of citizenship preparation classes, civics classes, computer training, money management training, high school equivalency instruction, and math tutoring. Because of this extensive training, six of our current employees have received their U.S. citizenship.

We feel that it is important to recognize the sacrifices and struggles that our immigrant employees faced just getting to the United States. From the beginning, they have demonstrated a strong will and determination to succeed.

The sheer number of people that this program touches makes it a real feel-good story. Employees hail from war-torn countries seeking better lives. Volunteers give up their own time to help them prepare for citizenship. This is their award, too.   

I have gotten to know many of our employees. They tell me about their families, their countries, how well their kids are doing, their hopes and dreams.  I highly respect them and enjoy hearing their success stories.  This award is their story, and it is the same beautiful story played out over decades by millions seeking a better life who have helped make America great.

Les Lak is the Vice President of Operations and Systems at Blasch Precision Ceramics in Albany, NY.