Customer Success - Tanya Boucher
Tanya Boucher and her family were suddenly homeless on April 1, 2011. Living in rural Maine can be difficult, but James Emmons worked as a truck driver, he and Tanya rented a house with an option to buy, and the two children—son Jayden and daughter Jianna—were well. Then James lost his job. The family moved in with friends in Worcester. “By the grace of God,” Tanya recalls, the Grace House in Southbridge, run by volunteers as part of the privately funded Interfaith Network, had an opening for one more family. It was during this time that Evelyn Velez, Worcester Community Action Councils Head Start Director of Family Services, volunteered at the shelter, met the family, and made phone calls to enroll Jayden—then 4 ½—in the Pre-K programs that help children make an easy transition to Kindergarten. “It was rough for me, but Evelyn assured me that my son would be fine. On the first day of school, Jayden told me I could go home now and not to worry—that he would meet friends,” Tanya said. When the shelter closed during the summer for lack of funding, Tanya, James, and the children lived in a motel. With help from two local housing organizations, the family moved to an apartment in Southbridge. James found a job in August, and Tanya works two part-time jobs. “We can now catch up on our bills and improve our credit.” Jayden made a smooth transition to Kindergarten, and Jianna, now 3 ½, is enrolled in WCAC’s Early Head Start program in Southbridge. Tanya said, “I’m relieved about having my children in school and doing well. Head Start and the teachers were somehow sent to us. We have a place to live. Somebody’s looking out for us. I don’t know what we would have done without everyone’s help.”
Customer Success - Calvin Bradshaw
Calvin Bradshaw, 26 years old, enrolled in WCAC's summer jobs weatherization program in 2009. Little did he know he was about to change his life.
As part of a group of 11 young men and women, Calvin participated in a pilot program under the direction of WCAC's energy team to learn green job skills and perform weatherization activities. The young adults received two weeks of pre-employment training, with a heavy emphasis on weatherization audits. A local contractor volunteered his time to offer hands-on demonstrations on caulking windows and blown-in insulation. While the rest of the group worked under the direction of the Main South CDC, Calvin shadowed the WCAC energy auditors and accompanied them on many quality control site inspections to learn how to do a thorough energy audit. He and the other young people also attended the moderate deleading training and received their certificates. At the end of the summer jobs program, Calvin enrolled in WCAC's GED classes, where he studied for two months and achieved his certificate. WCAC then hired him part-time to work with the energy team. In 2010, Calvin enrolled in Quinsigamond Community College (QCC), and through the WCAC's Senator Edward M. Kennedy Scholarship program, he was awarded a laptop computer for his school work. "I wanted to better myself. I wanted a career path in the criminal justice field, and I'm leaning toward being a police officer." So far, Calvin has taken 8 courses at QCC, recently took and scored an 89 (70 is a passing grade) on the police officer civil service exam, and will be on the list for 2 years.
"WCAC is the best place I've ever worked. I learned a lot, and I grew a lot. People believe in me…that I can do something good and positive. The best thing is to help other people, and I like to help my co-workers. Making other people happy makes me happy, too."
Customer Success - Tom Dubay
Tom Dubay lived in Rhode Island with his mother and sister. His parents divorced when he was 12, and his Dad moved to Worcester and remarried. Tom kept company with the wrong crowd, didn't go to school, and got into trouble. The divorce was unsettling: although his sister "got it together" and graduated high school, Tom ended up in Truancy Court, while he was repeating the 7th grade. In a short time, he had the reputation of being a "bad kid." He lived at the Rhode Island Training School (a juvenile detention center) for about 6-7 months, when he was 17. Within 2 months of getting out, he was back hanging out with the same people and violated his probation; new charges were filed. The judge offered him two choices: spend his remaining 3 ½ years probation in a correctional institution with the new adult charges dropped (R.I. can charge 17 year-olds as adults) or relocate to Worcester to live with his father and stepmother.
Working with local attorneys, Tom's father and stepmother had his case transferred to Worcester. At age 18, Tom was allowed to move in with them, and he felt this would give him "a start to a whole new life." His probation charges required him to complete school and one year of house arrest with an electronic monitoring device. Tom entered the Worcester Public School's Gerald Creamer Center: "I wasn't there to make friends…didn't want to get involved with anyone…I wanted to get the work done." The staff and teachers were friendly, and their acceptance of him made him work even harder. "Everyone has a story," he said of the other students at the Creamer Center. He worked hard, finished his required course work, and graduated on May 22, 2009, as Class Valedictorian. "I started doing things right as time went on, and I noticed that relationships and networks got better." Tom started volunteering at the Worcester Senior Center helping with landscaping, general cleaning, and setting up and breaking down events.
Creamer Center teachers referred Tom to WCAC and Bob Morrison, Summer Jobs Developer. Tom met Bob early in 2008, while he was still a student and volunteering at the Worcester Senior Center. Bob enrolled him in the state-funded YouthWorks program that summer, and Tom was able to get paid for his work at the Senior Center. When Tom was allowed by the courts to leave the house during non-school hours, he was then referred to WCAC's Start Our Success (SOS) program, a program in partnership with the Worcester Police Department. The SOS targets court-involved young adults ages 16-24 who want a "second chance." The state-funded program supports subsidized employment, case management, and other wraparound services. Through the SOS and help from WCAC job developers, Tom continued work after school at the Worcester Senior Center in building services 2-3 hours each day. When the SOS program funding expired, Tom was then hired by the Senior Center, and he continued there until February of 2010.
In September 2009, WCAC opened a Job and Education Center with one-year federal stimulus funds, and 100 young adults seeking education, employment skills, or job placement enrolled. Tom entered a 5-week "Fast Track" pre-employment program that allowed him to hone his job skills. "It was excellent," he said. "They [the JEC staff] taught me—not through textbooks—how to interview, how to make eye contact and shake hands. It sounds like basic things, but I learned that those [skills] are very important. I would do anything in the long run to learn. I paid attention."
Bob Morrison connected Tom with Imperial Distributors in Auburn in February 2010. He went on multiple interviews, went through drug screening tests, and on his 20th birthday, he was offered a shipping position where he stacked and counted inventory and cleaned the warehouse.
When a new second-shift supervisory position opened a short time later, Tom was offered the position. His supervisor said, "Tom showed a tremendous work ethic, displayed passion for working hard, and possessed innate leadership qualities, which are quite unusual. The management's decision to promote him was unanimous. Tom's potential is limitless." The team approach is embraced by Imperial Distributors, and Tom now oversees about 14 young people ages 18-23. "I talk to these "kids" as their supervisor. I don"t cross the line. They have a problem, I tell them to come to me. This is a great company, and they have rules. They expect people to learn the work and do well."
Tom's style certainly has impressed Imperial and the people with whom he comes in contact. His supervisor said it is not an easy shift to run: it has complicated orders and complex shipments, but Tom raises the work standards for himself and his peer group. Tom represents Imperial well, and the management is quite proud of him—"He's a good face for the company."
Tom often works double shifts and fills in when people are on vacation or out sick. He completed two semesters at Quinsigamond Community College, but has taken the summer off. He intends to finish his coursework in criminal justice, when he balances his work situation. Tom knows the criminal justice system and wants to work with juveniles. "We all have stories," he reiterates. "They (young people) can get out of bad situations if they want to. They can change; they just need the right motivation."
When Tom sees people or young adults struggling with their situations, he sits with them and talks about what they want in life and how they plan on achieving their goals. He believes that goals should always be set high; he "aims" for the stars knowing they are out of reach for the moment, but one day he will have exactly what he wants from life.
"I tell the kids that it's not about what you can't do or what's impossible; it's how to do it. The only thing that is not possible is failure. I don't like to use that word. Failure is a word that will break down somebody's dream in an instant. I like to call "failure" a lesson learned; it shows you what not to do next time around. People tell these kids, "why try"? I say, block everybody out. Do whatever you can. What are you doing to make your life better? I don't let bad choices or the wrong people get in the way of my life. I know what I know and where I want to be."