Dec. 16, 2013, Blue Bell, Pa.— Montgomery County Community College (MCCC) celebrated the journey of 28 individuals who successfully completed its innovative Partnership on Work Enrichment and Readiness (POWER) Program on Dec. 5 during a ceremony at the Central Campus in Blue Bell.
The POWER Program helps individuals in mental health recovery to successfully develop and reach their education and career goals through a two-credit college course that focuses on time management, basic computer skills, study skills, public speaking, college success skills, career assessment, resume writing and professionalism.
For the graduates, the POWER Program gives them the confidence and skills they need to take the next steps in their lives. Several participants reflected on their journeys during the ceremony.
“The POWER Program has allowed me to experience how to interview and write a resume, and I want to continue my studies and work toward obtaining a better job,” shared Jordon Giraldi, who was diagnosed with autism at age three. “I look forward to trying new things.”
Recent high school graduate Lea Lavelle aspires to start a foundation that partners sick children with animal companions – a passion that developed from her own experiences with Pets for Companionship following multiple surgeries for a brain tumor.
“I want a career where I help animals because they have helped me so much,” she shared. “I want to earn my associate’s degree [at MCCC] and then transfer.”
Michael Soder shared his journey to the POWER Program, which led through addiction, incarceration and, now, recovery.
“The POWER Program helped me gain confidence, and now I know I will amount to something,” he said. “The most important thing is the friendships I made.”
Paul Sirianni shared excerpts from journal entries he wrote while incarcerated as a teen.
“One thing people can’t take away from you – it’s hope,” said the creative writer, encouraging his classmates to push themselves past their “mental walls.”
As part of the ceremony, 14 students were recognized for their achievements through the POWER Plus Program. These students are attending college classes or are currently employed as a result of their participation in the POWER Program.
“When I completed the POWER Program last year, I had a sense of purpose,” shared POWER Plus participant Jacob Reeder. “Now, I am a support to those around me, and I look forward to getting my degree [from MCCC].”
The POWER team includes Director/Faculty Diane Haar, Program Coordinator/Advisor Lisa Barbiero, Community Liaison/Advisor Lori Schreiber, Peer Mentor George Rohde, Administrative Coordinator Dianne Johnson, Faculty Byron Goldstein, and Dean of Social Sciences Dr. Aaron Shatzman.
Montgomery County Community College and the Office of Montgomery County Behavioral Health/Development Disabilities provide funding for POWER and POWER Plus Programs, which also receive support from the Huston Foundation, Patricia Kind Foundation, the OddFellows of Philadelphia and other private foundations. However, the programs are in need of funding to continue next year.
Photo: POWER and POWER Plus Program participants from December 2013 graduation ceremony. Photo by Sandi Yanisko