At a recent JobTrain graduation our keynote speaker, Supervisor Warren Slocum, shared a story that really resonated with our students. As a young adult he felt he was headed nowhere. He had no plans to continue on in school, few dreams and wasn’t sure where he might end up. His friends were not leading him to make good choices. The turning point came when he found a mentor, someone who believed in his potential. His road to success started there, and he likened his experience to the students who find a pathway through JobTrain.
You would think in a community where the unemployment rate is so low, an organization dedicated to helping people find a career path would not be needed. The theory is that those who want a job can find a job. The trouble is, they can’t afford to stop at just one job. Most need two or even three jobs (if they are paid minimum wage) to afford to live in our communities. Real career paths, with a living wage, are a part of the solution to this growing problem and one of the few that can be self-sustaining over time. And yet, without someone at the crossroads who can offer an alternative, people on this road often end up at a dead end. For others even minimum wage jobs are not an option. Many people reach their crossroads and don’t find a mentor or role model. Some have had issues with the law, with addiction, with homelessness, others have no money to pay for an education or have no work experience. For them, the path leads nowhere.
For 50 years, JobTrain has stood in the crossroads, offering people a different road. Every day, I see the faces of people who are tired but determined, people who have made a choice to change their lives by coming to JobTrain. Determination is needed because the choice means very hard work, not only during the day in the classroom or in job search, but in the evening taking care of loved ones, and usually holding down a minimum wage job. It can mean sleeping on someone’s couch, in the park, or traveling hours to get to class.
If I had to use words to describe our students, they would be: quietly heroic. They don’t wear their troubles on their sleeves, but I’d challenge most people to get up in the morning carrying the load they carry.
The staff of JobTrain are also my heroes, because they too carry a big load. Like many employed by nonprofits, they work hard and long and are challenged by trying to live in a community that, to say the least, is not priced for a nonprofit salary. They are determined to do everything they can to squeeze more people into classes and programs, in an attempt to shorten our ever growing waiting lists. And every day I see the joy and satisfaction on their faces when someone in our community makes a great leap in learning, finds a great job, celebrates at a JobTrain graduation or goes on to college. It never gets old.
However, in the final analysis, it all comes down to you, our dedicated Board, Strategic Advisory Committee, volunteers, community partners, supporters and friends, many of whom have made sure that JobTrain could be here at the crossroads for close to 190,000 people for over 50 years. You are responsible for thousands of families who were inspired by success, who went on to become not only employees, but employers and whose children and grandchildren became graduates themselves.
Your community needed you. You stood at the crossroads and pointed the way. You still do, supporting JobTrain with your time, your donations and your wisdom.
Thank you is totally inadequate. But you should be very proud.