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Success Story Friday: Biggest Graduation Ever!

September 10, 2010

A recent graduate accepts her certificate from Goodwill Board Member JB Abdullah.

This morning, 111 graduates of our Occupational Skills Training program accepted their certificates and were recognized for jobs well done. Over the course of several weeks (six weeks for our Construction & Green Jobs Training and Hospitality & Tourism Training programs; nine weeks for our Banking & Customer Service Training program), our students have gotten to know each others’ stories, backgrounds, passions, and even families. They’ve become friends. They’ve studied together. They’ve coached each other. And most of all, they’ve encouraged each other, with support from their instructors.

Their weeks of hard work culminated in today’s event, a graduation ceremony at the Carole A. Hoefener Center in Uptown Charlotte, where 111 graduates–the largest group of graduates in Goodwill history–gathered to be celebrated and encouraged one last time as a group. The excitement in the room was palpable as the group was welcomed by JB Abdullah, community bank president for metro Charlotte with Wachovia, A Wells Fargo Company, who’s also a member of our Board of Directors.

“Carry today’s excitement with you,” Abdullah counseled. “Be committed to yourselves.”

Keynote speaker Sonya Barnes, president of Harris & Barnes Image Consulting, also commended the graduates’ commitment. “Be the director of your own life,” she said.

But it was the final speaker, Parris Friday, representing his Construction & Green Jobs Training class, who really drove home what the day was truly all about: changing lives through the power of work.

Graduate Parris Friday addresses the crowd.

“I hadn’t worked in 17 years,” Friday said. “I made a choice in my life in 1993, which led me to incarceration for 17 years. Going to prison was especially tough because I was leaving my family and my girlfriend Angel, who was pregnant with our daughter, Jermaine. I didn’t meet her until she was 12 years old.”

Parris’ story, about how he reinvented himself after spending so many years away from his family, had most of us searching for tissues.

“I decided in prison that I wanted to correct the wrong I did,” he said. After a long, unsuccessful job search, he was referred to Goodwill, and with some guidance from our team members, landed not one but two jobs–while also enrolling in our Construction & Green Jobs Training program.

“I have also reconnected with my family,” said Friday. “I am living with my now fiance Angel and our daughter. They are here today to support me. So, as we graduate today, I want to let everyone know, just because you have stumbling blocks in your life doesn’t mean you can’t get the help and guidance you need. There are places out there like Goodwill that care and are willing to help. I’m living proof of that.”

For more images from today’s graduation ceremony, click here.

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