“So carry your candle, run to the darkness. Seek out the hopeless, confused and torn,” site director Sue Bennett and Melissa Kinney sang at the recent Jobs for Life graduation. “Hold out your candle for all to see it.”
The graduates of the program responded by lifting their candles high in the air.
The song has become an anthem for the Christian Women’s Job Corps Jobs for Life students, according to Bennett. Members of the program often enter at a time in their life when they feel stuck. Sometimes it is financially, other times it is work-related — every time it is personal.
Jobs for Life instructor Edna Polier said some students come into the program beat up by life.
“They just don’t seem to have hope. They are barely able to get up in front of the class at all,” Polier said. “As we work with them, we tell them how unique, special and valuable they are. Eventually, they begin to believe it.”
Ladies involved in the 16-week program learn everything from budget management to basic car maintenance. Classes prepare students for work-related challenges through mock interviews, resume writing and lectures on workplace dress and conduct. Additional lessons focus on computer training, life skills and health and nutrition.
Mentors are assigned to the ladies for the duration of the program.
Recent graduates of class five and their mentors include Tez Clear with mentor Jackie Arnold; Sheila Evans, with mentor Nona Rogers; Margie Garmen, with mentor Pastor Kadene Hinkson; Melissa Kinney, with mentor Pat Cawood; and Easter Paynter, with mentor Alice Terry.
Each student was given the opportunity to address the crowd.
Clear said she felt stuck prior to joining the program. She received renewed hope as the CWJC officers ministered to her. The program allowed Clear to gain a new perspective on life. She learned she does not have to go through life alone.
Evans agreed. “This class has given me the push I need to make a new beginning.”
Garmen claimed the program had the capability to “bless your socks off.” She said she gained a renewed sense of confidence as she completed each task.
However, she was not initially sold on the Jobs for Life program.
“I thought to myself, ‘Why am I even taking this class? I don’t need it,’” Garmen said. “But when I went through the class I realized I did need it.”
She said the class taught her more than just confidence. She realized there are people who care for her.
“No matter what you’re going through,” Garmen said, “there are sisters in the Lord watching out for you, really praying for you and taking care of you.”
Kinney said it was her second time around in the program. A personal tragedy and subsequent feelings of being stuck encouraged her to enroll in the program again. She said she felt like the Lord was telling her to return to Jobs for Life.
Paynter was shocked to stand up and see the size of the crowd at North Cleveland Baptist Church. She was momentarily distracted as she shared her appreciation for their attendance. She finished the personal reflections by saying she is delighted with the opportunity to have a new beginning.
“The word for me at this point in my life is perseverance. I have been a quitter in my life. There are many things I have started,” Paynter said. “I am so glad I have persevered. These ladies [and from the community] have come in to share information with us, and we can’t just find that anywhere.”
Paynter’s words on new beginnings were a direct reflection of Dr. Evaline Echols’ keynote speech to the graduates.
She encouraged the students to find time to sit at the feet of Jesus.
“Sit at his feet, feast on his word, step out of the shadows of yesterday, cross over your Jordan and do not allow the shadows of the past to block the sunlight of tomorrow,” Echols said. “... We’ve got to remember that a new beginning leads us into the destiny God has prepared for us.”
The next Jobs for Life session begins on Feb. 11. Those who are interested in joining the program may do so via submitting an application to the Bradley Baptist Association at North Cleveland Baptist Church.