The 200th class to complete the nationally recognized STRIVE job readiness and attitudinal training program offered by LIFE of NC celebrated graduation, May 12, 2017. Since its founding locally in May 2000, STRIVE NC has served 2,097 graduates with innovative job and life skills training. Currently, LIFE of NC serves Greenville-Pitt County in eastern North Carolina at the Life Empowerment Center classroom facilities on the campus of Third Street Community Center. The “hardest to employ” individuals learn how to become productive members of society through gainful employment. Seventy-five percent of graduates are employed.
“After spending seven years inside NC Department of Corrections, over a quarter of my life, I was nervous about returning back to a now foreign society. I felt that my character had been properly reﬁned and that I was mentally ready, but I also knew that in many other areas of life I was completely unprepared. I could not answer how I would obtain basic things for survival such as food, clothing and shelter and I knew that without these things recidivism was a very real possibility no matter how much I did not desire to return to my former way of life. The STRIVE program answered my prayers and systematically helped me with my reentry by giving me job training, providing me with basic necessities, assisting me with enrolling in college and also giving me invaluable encouragement and support during rough times. Thanks to all the time, energy, compassion, and effort by the staff. I am now gainfully employed working two jobs, pursuing a degree in computer information technology, involved in community activism and thoroughly enjoying life in general. The STRIVE program is a pillar of strength and support to many other people who are genuinely pursing to change their lives for the better and I am deeply appreciative and indebted to it for the radical change that it has assisted me in making in my life. Shout outs to Ms. Whittaker, Mr. Jeffrey T. Joyner and Ms. Joyce Jones who have all become like family and have put in so much effort so that I can be successful.”
When I started this program, it was for all the wrong reasons. I honestly thought there was nothing new that I could learn from this program. However, after the first few days, I realized that I have always been living by other people’s expectations, which always caused me to never measure up. Ms. Barnes in particular showed me that my current situation is not my final destination.
I have overcome many misconceptions I had about myself. I learned that my meaning of success is much different in my eyes than that of many others. For me success comes from learning from my past decisions, both the good and the bad, not repeating the bad and striving to better the good ones.
Success for me is simply being happy about what I see when I look in the mirror.
I also learned in this program we are always responsible for our own actions. Meaning everything begins and ends with me. This program has shown me that time management had become a weakness for me in my 9 years of being on disability. It also has really shown me how to live.
Life has become more vibrant, more beautiful. We are all given a limited amount of breaths, so I now ask myself daily, “How am I using my breaths? Am I wasting my breaths?” And now my answer is I will make each and every breath count.
Thank you, LIFE of NC, STRIVE, and Ms. Barnes for giving me this opportunity.