(BEDFORD) – Ten individuals donning black graduation caps and gowns, some for the first time, completed the Introduction to Local Jobs And Skills class that the Lawrence County Workforce Coalition facilitates in conjunction with the North Lawrence Career Center.
Family, friends, well-wishers, and community supporters were filling the stadium seats and chairs to cheer the graduates in the new Stone Gate Arts and Education Center auditorium.
These participants completed three weeks of hands-on training that included welding, construction, machining, and ten hours of soft skills and workplace environment instruction.
Monday was Graduation Day, the culmination of instruction that resulted in a plaque from Lawrence County Prosecutor Sam Arp, a certificate of completion, and a $250 stipend.
Participants in what is now the fourth cohort of the program are a mixture of residents interested in increasing their skills and those involved in the justice system in Lawrence County.
The intent is to improve the quality of life for Lawrence County residents, focusing on the un- and under-employed. Each graduate sits down with a staff member and begins to design what they would like to do in their next steps to success. Some (young and old alike) need to get their high school diploma and connect to the HSE program with Vincennes University. Some are looking at college options, additional skills training, internships, and finding a living wage job.
There is also a new legal resource available to help with participants’ barriers such as driver’s licenses, child support issues, and more.
During the graduation ceremony, North Lawrence Career Center Counselor Kristina Baker addressed the crowd.
“When you look at Cohort 4, you see these individuals sitting here looking so lovely in their caps and gowns and pretty excited to collect their $250,” Baker said. “. A group of people many you do not know. When I look at Cohort 4, I see many other things. I see real people trying to make their lives better. I see people involved with the justice system while others are not; I see parents, teenagers, I see a dad that has 14 kids and 14 grandkids, a homeless person, recovering addict. I see new friends. These are people in our community trying to gain skills for a better life. I see so much more than Cohort 4. I wish you all the best!”
Some are involved with the justice system and have been referred to the program by Community Corrections, Probation, and local Judges. They have perfect attendance, arrive on time, and work hard.
“This program has opened many doors and created many opportunities for Justice-Involved individuals, which is not only a benefit to the participants but also for Community Corrections, Probation and the entire community,” said Chad Shew, Community Corrections Director. “It is a win-win for everyone.”
Joshua Davis is a prime example of that. He was released from prison on January 14th and is involved with the Community Transitions Program. He is taking full advantage of opportunities to change his life around and be a better part of the community as he serves his three years of probation.
“I took the program to better myself in the community and change the direction I was going in,” said Davis. “Attending the class changed my outlook on life and gave me a much better idea of careers I could pursue locally and am anxious to get as much more training as possible.” Joshua has an interview on Wednesday for a living wage job in Lawrence County and ironically used a previous graduate as a reference.
Prosecutor Sam Arp closed out the ceremony, challenging and encouraging the participants.
“This program has opened the door to your success; the only thing standing in your way is you,” Arp said, “You must take this moment to define what success is for you and now go out and work hard and don’t stop until you achieve your success – only you can achieve this.”
About the Lawrence County Economic Growth Council:
The Lawrence County Economic Growth Council is a non-profit, local economic development organization (LEDO) existing to support the growth of Lawrence County Businesses including startup support, workforce solutions, and technical assistance which promotes investment that improves the quality of life for our citizens. Learn more at www.lawrencecountygrowth.com.