SARASOTA/BRADENTON, FL – Four current or recent Goodwill Manasota employees recently earned their high school diplomas, thanks to the Workforce Education Program, a partnership of Goodwill, Ave Maria Preparatory School and the Department of Education. Through the Workforce Education Program, Goodwill team members ages 22-40 with disabilities can earn their diplomas while continuing to earn a paycheck.
Jennifer Washburn, Rodrika Randolph, Star Johnson and Darren Ard compose the third Workforce Education Program graduating class. The ceremony was held at the Goodwill Corporate Campus in Bradenton.
The Workforce Education Program takes approximately two years to complete. The students meet twice a week, once at the Goodwill Corporate Campus in Bradenton and once at the Ave Maria campus in Myakka City. The program offers small class sizes, enabling students to benefit from more personal attention from instructors. It is free to all participants. Since the program’s inception in 2011, approximately 70 students have been served and 13 have graduated.
It is not easy for students to juggle the demands of family, work and school – as such, not all who register graduate – but those who do have find they are more likely to be considered for new opportunities, promotions and better pay.
“All of us noticed your commitment to your dream and your hard work and we are proud of you. You are a shining example of what is possible for a person who has a dream and is willing to work for it,” said Margie Genter, Goodwill’s vice president of mission services, during the graduation. “It’s difficult to go back to school when you’re an adult, but getting a high school diploma is a game-changer. Congratulations on this significant accomplishment.”
Sister Gilchrist, the founder and CEO of Ave Maria, also spoke during the event. “You ladies are such an inspiration: to your peers, your co-workers and to the world,” she said. “Your achievement here has already encouraged others to follow in your footsteps.”
Due in great part to the positive influence and success of the program graduates, the incoming class for the Workforce Education Program has reached 20, an unprecedented number.
PHOTO ID: (Front row, l-r) Goodwill vice president of mission services Margie Genter, graduates Jennifer Washburn, Rodrika Randolph and Star Stuart (not pictured: Darren Ard), and Sister Edith and Sister Gilchrist of Ave Maria Preparatory School; (back row) Nancy Crawford, Dana Knuuti, Ann Artuz and Duane Stasiewicz
About Goodwill Manasota
Goodwill Manasota is an industry-leading, 501(c)(3), not-for-profit organization that changes lives through the power of work. With the sales of donated goods and philanthropic donations, Goodwill is able to assist people with disabilities and other barriers to employment by providing job skills training and employment opportunities. In 2014, Goodwill Manasota served more than 16,000 people, placed 680 people in jobs and assisted 520 veterans as they reintegrated back into the civilian workforce. Goodwill Manasota’s economic impact back to the community is worth $81.3 million. Goodwill is one of the pioneers of the reduce-reuse-recycle movement and this past year diverted 39 million pounds out of the landfill. We accomplish our mission through a network of Good Neighbor Centers in Sarasota, Manatee, Hardee and DeSoto counties and our Mission Development Services (MDS) around North America. Goodwill Manasota is accountable to a local Board of Directors. Goodwill Manasota in essence belongs to this community, and is not owned by any individual or company. For more information, visit www.experiencegoodwill.org.