Last week, Hopeworks hosted our first ever Adult Basic Skills Graduation Ceremony to celebrate young professionals who recently earned their high school diplomas! Family, friends, and Hopeworks team members attended the ceremony at the Kroc Center in Camden to honor their achievements. Keynote speakers included Hopeworks alumni Caloua Lowe, GIS Team Lead Leandra McCullough, and graduates Kayondra Garrison and Elise Vogues! 

There was food, fun and fellowship had by all following the ceremony. Each graduate was also presented with a hard copy of their diploma, a Hopeworks swag bag, and a brand new laptop! Thank you to Hopeworks staff Shawneeq and Carol for coordinating this incredible event!

Congratulations are in order for La’Shay who has recently secured her high school diploma! This is a great accomplishment and it’s certainly not an easy road to get there. La’Shay, your journey is just beginning and we’re so happy that you’ve overcome so many obstacles to obtain your goal. 

We’ve had a huge year of young professionals receiving their high school diplomas and now we’ve added two more to the list! We are so proud of Alejandra and Joseph for all of their hard work and perseverance to get to this point, we know it has not been an easy road. 

When asked about some of the challenges she faced along the way, Alejandra said there were many, but she continued to push through.

A lot of times I wanted to give up. I felt as though I was never going to get to where I wanted to be with all the craziness in my life.” 

She pinpoints the support of staff and friends at Hopeworks for helping her to remember to keep the big picture in mind.

“Those at Hopeworks taught me that there are going to be trials and tribulations to try to stop you from succeeding. Just remember to always keep pushing. No matter the circumstances. If you believe you will achieve. Most certainly you will.”

We are so excited to see where you both go from here!

Earlier this month, we announced that Web Team member Jordanny had received his high school diploma, and now it’s OFFICIAL! Jordanny has encountered a number of obstacles within his diploma journey, but he was able to overcome them all.

The main challenge I faced while getting my diploma was just getting over my anxiety to take the test.”

Luckily, Jordanny pushed past his anxiety and fears and completed all of the requirements to achieve this special accomplishment. He credits Hopeworks for helping him grow as a professional and learn valuable skills for his future career.

“Hopeworks has helped teach me about the professional side of things. They've taught me a lot of skills that I can use later in my career such as UI design and G.I.S training.

Hopeworks also has helped me achieve my goal of finally getting my diploma and moving on to college.”

Jordanny, you have a bright future ahead of you and we cannot wait to see you continue to shine your light!

Hopeworks is proud to announce that Shahid Cavallini has earned his high school diploma!

Shahid’s path to this diploma was not an easy one. Shahid left public school in the 9th grade. He came to Hopeworks on the advice of his mother. Even though he faced tremendous social anxiety, Shahid was able to make the small ABS class sizes work for him. Throughout his entire journey to this monumental accomplishment, Shahid has always been patient, polite, and determined to get his diploma. 

In every class, Shahid always gave 100% effort. He stayed the course, earned his diploma, and is now looking into becoming a Townsend scholar and moving onto college.

Congrats, Shahid!

In all of the years Shawneeq Pettey-Ford has been administering the HiSET Test, both as a mathematics teacher/program coordinator at Camden Community College and as ABS Program Manager for Hopeworks, she has never once seen anyone get a perfect score on a subtest of the HiSET. That is, until Miles Watson came along. 

Miles got a perfect score on the Social Studies subtest of the HiSET—on his first try! He scored a 20 out of 20. “He is so intelligent,” says Shawneeq.

More recently, Miles passed all five subtests and earned his high school diploma. The actual document arrived in time for his birthday.

“Miles' older brother got his diploma with us,” says Shawneeq. Miles came in October 2020, when he was 16. His scores on the TABE (diagnostic) test were so off the charts, Shawneeq thought, “Wow. Miles, we need to register you now.”

She says Miles would have earned his diploma much sooner had there not been issues with his forms of identification. It also took a long time to get signed consent forms from his family. “The pandemic didn’t help, either,” says Shawneeq. In the interim, Miles went through the training and took lots of practice tests. 

When Miles was able to take the five subtests of the HiSET—Language Arts, Writing, Mathematics, and Social Studies—he wanted to do more than just “pass.” He wanted to do his best. So on some tests, even though he got a passing score, he would ask Shawneeq if he could take the test again. “I’d tell him, ‘Miles, you passed!,” and he’d say, “Yeah, but I know I can do better.

“That’s Miles!,” says Shawneeq. “I am so excited to see what his future looks like!”

Diplomas, Jobs, and More!

Erionne Vogue gave himself a wonderful 18th birthday present—his high school diploma. The fact that he now has it is a testament to his persistence and his willingness to conquer obstacle after obstacle. If you had time to hear his story, you’d know he encountered more obstacles over the course of the year or two than many people face in a lifetime. Yet, he triumphed over every one that presented itself. 

“He had it rough,” says Shawneeq Pettey-Ford, Adult Basic Skills Program Manager. “We wouldn’t hear from him for a while. Then we would get an email from him, letting us know he was ready. I remember one time he came back and he had this little notebook. He said, ‘These are my goals.’ He wrote down everything, how much it cost, how much he was saving."

“He made up his mind about what he wanted and he did it!” says Shawneeq. “I am so proud of him and his sister. I can see so much for his future."

“Yeah, I AM proud of him.”

Max Heaps applied to a job with Benefits Data Trust on his own—and he landed it! When he came to Hopeworks in the beginning of January, he brought with him his experience in the hospitality industry. He started as a dishwasher and was promoted to management very quickly, says Tina Anino, Max’s Career Readiness Coach. He finished his Hopeworks training very quickly as well, she said. 

“He was really motivated, and eager for success,” says Tina. “He told me, ‘I am done with this internship and ready for a full-time job.’ And then he applied outside of Hopeworks and he got it.

“One thing I admire about Max is that he is always thinking outside the box, always creative,” Tina says. “I am really excited about his journey!”

Elise Vogues is one woman! After she got pregnant in high school, she walked to Camden High School every day until she gave birth to her son, Trevon Johnson. In fact, at one point, she was attending school, undergoing training at Hopeworks, and, as she says “contemplating the ABS classes” Hopeworks provides. 

And then the pandemic hit. Elise considered the best course of action for her and her son, and “decided to take a leap of faith” and attend Hopeworks’ Adult Basic Skills program.

She knew she could go that route to get her high school diploma. That was back in March 2020. 

This April, Elise reached the finish line. It wasn’t easy, especially since she had to learn online and had a baby who needed her care.  But she did it!

“I did have a setback but surprisingly, it didn’t stop me,” says Elise.” What helped me stick with it is my ambition and my son. I always strive to become somebody in life and to better myself as a person. I also made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t become a statistic. Since I have a child, I had no choice but to stick with the plan.

“We went through quarantine and it was a struggle,”says Shawneeq Pettey-Ford, Adult Basic Skills Program Manager. “Elise finds it much easier to learn in person. At times, it was really hard for Elise. But she persevered.”

Elise and Shawneeq approached the process strategically. Elise’s worst subject is math, so she saved that subtest for last. She was seriously scared to take the math test. But passing the other four sub-tests gave Elise a boost of confidence. When it was time to take the math test,  she had a good feeling about it.

“I’m feeling positive,” she told Shawneeq. “I’m going to pass it.”

And she did, earning a score that put her well above the minimum passing score of 8

“The day I got my diploma, it felt very surreal,” says Elise. 

Now that she has her  diploma, Elise is looking toward the future. She briefly considered a career in nursing, but has a newfound interest in helping parents understand trauma-informed care. She is a member of the Youth Healing Team. 

“Now that I have a diploma, I intend to get a real-world, long term job that will help me give my son the things I didn’t have growing up.” says Elise. “Having my diploma is the stepping stone to building my life.”

David Clark was attending high school in Camden and was struggling to stay focused and motivated with virtual learning. David admits he was more interested in sports than in academics, so high school during a pandemic was a challenge.  He didn’t feel supported and left school in December 2020, but knew he needed to find another path.  His friend was a Hopeworks GIS intern and David saw that despite some personal challenges, his friend had opportunities at Hopeworks and life was improving for him.  He saw his friend making plans and achieving goals, so he started training that same month.

David shared that early in the training, he continued to have trouble staying focused.  His schedule was keeping him from getting enough sleep to be productive. David’s Job Readiness Assessment (JRA), conducted during his training, made David aware of the patterns that were keeping him from moving forward.  He immediately made the changes needed to get to work on time, be productive and professional, and was able to complete the training program in February. David then earned an internship in the training room helping other youth achieve their goals!

Obtaining a H.S. Diploma is one important goal for David. He is an Adult Basic Skills (ABS) student at Hopeworks preparing for the HiSet test to earn a diploma. David took the first of five tests on March 19th!  With an entrepreneurial spirit and the dream to own a business in the future, David feels that Hopeworks has provided the tools he needs to make it happen.

David expressed his gratitude by sharing, “Hopeworks has so many opportunities. I get so much support and learn skills and everyone here is very positive. Outside of Hopeworks, I don’t get that or the guidance I need. I know I need to do the right things and I’m learning the right steps to take at Hopeworks. I stay motivated by the positivity here. I feel more at home at Hopeworks than I did at home.” 

Building equity and ending poverty isn't about just helping youth get a job -- it is about helping them keep it, and getting promoted to make sure they have enough money to build wealth for themselves and the next generation.

That is why Hopeworks is building new "Middle Skills Pathways" - rigorous training programs that help youth earn high wage jobs even without a college degree. Watch the video to learn more!

808 Market St 3rd Floor
Camden, NJ 08102
(856) 365-4673
Hopeworks is a 501(c)(3) non-for-profit organization, EIN: 31-1660671.
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