Until he turned 18, Shimon had never used a computer. Growing up in an Ultra-Orthodox community in Haifa and educated in a yeshiva, he had very little exposure to secular subjects like science and math. Technology felt foreign — and at first, that didn’t bother him.

But as Shimon grew up, he realized there was a world outside his community. After getting married and having two children, the lure of that outside world became stronger. He now needed to make money to support his family, and opportunities within his community were scarce. Shimon wanted to find a job, and his interest in computers led his search.

The Mafteach Haredi Employment Center in Haifa entered Shimon’s life at precisely the right time, and he devoured its offerings. Shimon took English courses and studied mathematics and computer skills. He met with a job counselor who suggested he pursue higher education before settling for an entry-level job.

He enrolled in a yearlong prep program for Ultra-Orthodox hoping to study at Haifa’s prestigious Technion. But the stigma of employment in his community still stings; today, while Shimon’s neighbors think he’s studying at the local kollel, he is actually working on an associate’s degree at Technion. It’s an attitude he hopes will one day change.

It is difficult to survive on his wife’s meager salary and his scholarship, but Shimon knows his struggles will pay off soon. With a Technion degree, his job prospects will be wide open. And the future of his family? It couldn’t be brighter.