At Consumers Energy, we strive to build a culture where employees feel empowered to bring their whole self to work every day.  Everyone comes to the table with a unique perspective, and we recognize it’s this melting pot of ideas that propels our company to succeed. In honor of Diversity Awareness Month, learn more about senior rate analyst Josnelly Aponte’s journey to becoming a U.S. citizen.

Tell us about your immigration story.

I used to work for a subsidiary of CMS Energy in Venezuela and was transferred to the United States due to my knowledge of International Accounting Standards and ability to communicate in Spanish, Portuguese and English, which was necessary to work with many CMS Energy subsidiaries at the time. When I transferred to the U.S. with my husband and two-and-a-half year old daughter, I had a temporary work visa which allowed me to stay in the country as long as I was employed by CMS Energy.

After CMS Energy sold its international assets in 2007, the Company sponsored me to have permanent resident status or a green card. Typically, the three main categories to qualify for a green card are family, job or refugee/asylee status. Not all employers sponsor their employees to stay in a new country so I considered myself fortunate to be a CMS Energy employee. I received my green card two days prior to receiving a job offer from its subsidiary, Consumers Energy. Today, I have been with CMS Energy for 17 years, nine of them with Consumers Energy.

On May 20, 2016, my husband, daughter and I became U.S. citizens after calling the U.S. “home” for ten years.

How has your experience as an immigrant impacted your life?

I’m extremely grateful that CMS Energy and Consumers Energy allowed the opportunity for my family and me to become U.S. citizens. I believe this journey has made me a better person.  I have met wonderful people in this country and enjoy contributing my skills to a society that values what I have to offer. It has been truly a life-changing experience.

It will allow my daughter the opportunity to realize her potential without barriers while also learning the importance of giving back to her local community.

What are your best memories in the U.S. so far?

I consider the following to be significant milestones in my life:

  • Completing an MBA program within three years of coming to the U.S.
  • Getting involved in my community through the Jackson Junior Welfare League
  • Finding an American family who has “adopted us” as part of their own

What advice can you give readers?

For new immigrants – Although transitioning to a new country may be difficult, it is important to incorporate yourself without disrespecting the American culture. I firmly believe that immigration is the opportunity for immigrants and Americans to work together to create a richer culture. You can still keep your traditions while incorporating yourself into society. If you ever feel like an outcast, ask yourself “what am I doing to contribute to my community?” Getting involved in the community is the best way to build connections.

For Americans – I urge you to keep an open mind and not take freedom and safety for granted. In the end, we’re all people who seek a better life for our loved ones. In many third-world countries, people do not have the luxury of seeing the fruits of their labor. The opportunities are endless here.

Click to learn more about how we’re powering Michigan with a diverse and inclusive workforce.