Year Up Graduates Open the Door to Opportunity

WilmU hosts workforce development program for low-income students.

Alyssa Bradley (YU Student Services)

For the 20 members of Year Up Wilmington’s Class of 2019, July 24 marked the end of the opportunity of a lifetime and the beginning of a lifetime of opportunity.

The students celebrated their completion of an intensive year-long finance and technology workforce development program in a graduation ceremony at Wilmington University’s New Castle campus on Wednesday night.

Graduation means more than a certificate, a walk across the stage, or a moment of recognition for these young adults. It’s also a chance to re-evaluate their potential and set their sights on the higher education and career goals that are now within their reach.

“I now look at myself in the mirror with different words to say about myself, because I am proud of myself,” says Jocelyn Vickery, one of the evening’s student speakers. “I am a fighter. I am confident and display a high level of grit to make things happen despite the circumstances. I am a professional career woman and a mom.

“The Year Up program allowed me to see my strengths and hone in on them,” Ms. Vickery says, “understand my growth areas and improve them. It didn’t make me, but it guided and supported me. For that, I will forever be grateful.”

Year Up Wilmington, the local chapter of a national nonprofit, has partnered with WilmU over the past academic year to teach marketable job skills to motivated young adults from low-income communities, then arrange entry-level work experiences for them through local employers.

This year’s class of students, aged 18 to 24 years, spent six months in classrooms, learning the technical and professional skills necessary to succeed in the workplace. These classes were followed by six months on the job as interns at some of the area’s leading corporations, where they applied the skills they’d acquired and gained hands-on work experience.

Along with Ms. Vickery, students Andrea Flores, Maria Mendez de la Cruz, and Breiyna Price also spoke at Wednesday night’s ceremony, as did select Year Up alumni and Lossie Freeman, Special Assistant for Employment Initiatives to Wilmington Mayor Mike Purzycki.

The program’s participants earned college credits at no cost as well as modest financial stipends during the trainings and internships. Nationwide, 85% of graduates are employed or attending college full time within four months of completing the program, says Year Up.

“Our strength is placing young adults with talent in positions that companies are trying to fill,” says Hassan Charles, executive director of the Year Up programs in Wilmington and Greater Philadelphia, which have graduated nearly 500 students since 2013. “I am amazed by our students’ motivation, drive and commitment to succeed. Year Up provides them with the opportunity to showcase their strengths, reliability and skills to local employers.”

For more information about Year Up Wilmington, to apply to its training program, or to contribute to its opportunities, visit yearup.org/wilmington.

David Bernard