Monthly Archives: June 2016

Graduation as the embodiment of second chances and the power of possible.

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June is a month of graduations, new beginnings, and second chances.  For Fedcap and its family of agencies, this is a time of joyful celebrations, as pre-schoolers graduate from our ESNY child development programs and move on to first grade, teenagers graduate from our Fedcap High School, and adults graduate from our Career Design School.   Each of these celebrations is different in its own way, yet the theme of courage, hope and joy is braided through each.

We pause to honor these many graduates because of our conviction that education is the pathway to equity and to long term economic well-being.  We know that along with education comes the power of choice. When someone graduates from one of our schools, they are taking a stand and saying: I am in charge of my future.  They are saying: I believe in the power of possible in my life.

Our graduates come to us as they are—some are lost, some are angry, some are eager and excited, some are scared, some are homeless, and some come from a legacy of abuse and failure.  We embrace, we teach, we train, we believe, and then we all work hard to help them achieve their dreams.

Over 800 five-year olds with varying forms of disability are leaving our pre-schools and entering public school to learn alongside their non-disabled peers.  One parent—in tears—at our Valhalla Child Development Center graduation said, “I did not think it was possible. I am starting to believe that my daughter will be viewed by the world as so much more than her disability, but the courageous, smart little girl she is…Easter Seals did that for her.”

And in Manhattan, 150 proud graduates received their diplomas from Fedcap’s Career Design School amidst the raucous cheering of nearly 600 family and friends. Chastity Salas was one of those graduates and embodies their spirit and heart.  Because of family struggles and a mentally ill mom, Chastity was homeless.  Yet she graduated from the Home Care program and started work.  She slept on the subway, dressed in shelters, and did not miss one appointment with her clients. She told her fellow graduates, “I do not intend to paint my homelessness story as a sad and hopeless one. I am not sad nor am I hopeless.” I am in full realization of what I am capable of achieving and becoming… I fully understand that I have to do this for myself and I will.”

When a young person is labeled as a “behavior problem” or defined as “special ed” and shuffled from class to class it is hard to believe that graduation is even possible.  Yet at our Fedcap School, eight young people did what most thought impossible…they graduated from high school, and several are going on to college.  The cheers of teachers, family members, and fellow students were jubilant—as one graduate put it, “I proved everyone wrong…even myself… I did it!”  And now, the world is open to her.

Our graduation is not merely an event, but it is a portal to possibilities that were once just distant hopes.

Chastity’s message to her fellow graduates was this: “Good, better, best, never let it rest until your good gets better and your better gets best. It doesn’t matter how old you are—never give up.”

Join me in congratulating our classes of 2016.

 

Graduation and Commencement—Celebration, New Beginnings, The Power of Possible.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.   — Lao Tze

We are rapidly approaching my favorite day on the Fedcap calendar—Graduation Day. June is full of graduations—but none is as evocative or inspiring to me as ours. On June 15th over two hundred and fifty men and women—of all ages—will cross the stage at John Jay College and receive a diploma for an extraordinary accomplishment—many against unimaginable odds.

Our graduates come from all walks of life. They represent a full roster of the people we exist to serve—those with barriers to employment—individuals with physical or mental disabilities, youth aging out of foster care, veterans, the previously incarcerated, recovering addicts, and older workers who have been nudged out of the workplace. Each graduate harbors a story of triumph in personal courage and determination. Each story is an example of resilience and hardiness and strength. And each moment among cheering parents, relatives, children, grandchildren, and friends inspires me, our staff, and our board of directors to keep on doing the work we are doing to make possible what was, for many, once inconceivable.

Graduation opens the door to job placement, many in our own businesses. We see folks settled into jobs in facilities management, culinary arts, document imaging and printing, and security. Many of the graduates are already employed, and many will be, based on the skills and strengths they have built through our programs.

Graduation day reminds me of the power of one person to make a difference. One graduate, through perseverance, gumption, and will, can alter the course of her or his family history. Where there may have been hopelessness about a bright future, there is now resolve. Where some focused only on the outcome, they now understand the journey is where the action is. These are lessons learned only through taking a goal one day at a time, one step at a time, showing up day after day until this day—graduation day is upon us. And now, commencement begins—commencement to the next step, the next journey—it is thrilling to imagine what that could and will be.

And the day reminds me of not only the power of the graduates to make a difference in their own lives, but also the power of their families, friends, and “chosen” families to do this for others. Without the support and the backing of those closest to us—those who believe in us—where would we be? Many of us would not be where we are today.

And finally, I am reminded of the difference, every day, that our staff makes in the lives of the graduates and their colleagues. Each of the staff, including many who have crossed the stage before this graduating class of 2016, has the power and ability to mentor, inspire, and lead others to places they had not dreamed were possible.

I can’t wait til the 15th of June! I can’t wait to see the smiles on the faces of those who have worked so hard—and to hear the cheers of their supporters—staff, friends, and family.

We each have an opportunity every day to help others move from impossible to possible. I go to bed each night wondering: What did I do today to help someone discover their “possible”? What will you do?