School of Hope: The Value of Vocational Training

Monday, October 24th, 2011

The remarkable story of John Patrick Edwards in last week’s Boston Herald reminded me of so many of our students’ incredible journeys at the Phoenix House Career Academy. Edwards, who struggled with drug addiction for 25 years, is now a chef at a local college. He says that learning a vocation and securing employment was a “giant factor” in getting him off drugs, a statement I hear so often here at our Career Academy.

Like Edwards, our students arrive with significant challenges. They are all recovering from substance abuse or living with another disability. Many have no support system. In addition to valuable training in one of our five vocations (carpentry, cosmetology, office associates, building management, and culinary arts) we give them what they need the most: an environment where people believe in them. With the Career Academy’s guidance and encouragement, many students have completely transformed their lives. While they often face disadvantages when it comes to finding a job, we help them become more prepared, marketable, and less afraid. We promote internships, teach resume-writing, and hold mock interviews.

Often, I see students far exceed their own expectations. I remember meeting with one man from the Beyoncé Cosmetology Center who was very emotional and worried about whether he’d land a job. Guess what? He landed three jobs! He’s now working for Chanel. Another Cosmetology Center graduate was working for Beyoncé’s stylist Neal Farinah while he was on tour, and one of our students is currently working for star chef Mario Batali. These clients’ remarkable stories teach us that when given the right skills and support, every person has the potential to succeed.

Lynn Lockamy
Director, Phoenix House Career Academy

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