In a program designed to give second chances, Lena Park Community Development Corporation's Training, Education and Job Advancement Center (TedJac) has changed many lives. TedJac was created for the people who, for some reason or other, were not able to obtain a degree previously.
Over the past year there have been 23 graduates, ages varying from 21 to 66, with a 100 percent success rate of employment. On May 24, fifteen men and women graduated from the Construction and Property Management course in a ceremony held at Lena Park's headquarters on American Legion Highway.
The center prepares participants for "high-quality" positions, skills training, life coaching, literacy, and also creates individual plans for each person to ensure they complete the program successfully.
"It is a dynamic program that works the way a program should work," said Finnette Davis, program director. "Many of the graduates were unemployed and overcoming barriers such as substance abuse and domestic violence. This program has given them the opportunity to turn themselves around."
Sixty-two year old Nathan McKenzie, graduating as a certified carpenter, has already gained employment.
"It feels good to have completed this program. Work is very hard to come by so I joined this program to see if it could help me - and it really did," said Mckenzie. "We learned trades such as painting, mechanics, and carpentry. I'm glad I decided to take this step because it really made a difference."
Phillip Walker, 53, and Edward B. Evans, 45, two participants in the TedJac program attended the graduation in support of their peers.
"After 15 years of being employed on and off, I joined the program to see if it could help me find something more stable," said Walker. "At my age it has prepared me both physically and mentally."
Evans, who currently works in auto detailing, enthusiastically agrees with the success of the program.
"This program is very informative. The counselors help you work on your resume and cover letter and they teach you how to interact in the professional world. Basically help you pull your life together where you need to."
Both men will graduate in August.
Dana Johnson, graduating with special recognition for most accomplished, spoke of his troubled beginnings and how the program changed him for the better.
"In my younger years I greatly contributed in tearing down my community. I thought I was really living and then I woke up and realized what I was truly doing was tearing down my home. It wasn't easy to turn myself around since everytime I took a step forward there were ten people trying to hold me back," said Johnson, who currently works in office management.
"Before I joined this program I was more of a 'do-it-yourself' kind of guy. Being here helped me realize the importance of networking and delegating. There are people out there willing to help - you just have to reach out."
The ceremony included remarks from Bill Gannon, construction teacher for TedJac, and guest speaker state Rep. Linda Dorcena Forry, who praised the graduates for their dedication and commitment because by bettering themselves they would be "bettering their community."