Deshawn is a 21-year-old high school graduate and father of two who has lived in East Baltimore all his life. He was unemployed and knew that he had the potential to do more but lacked the resources to turn that into action. DeShawn was introduced to Living Classrooms' workforce development program when he was approached by a case manager in a nearby park who was circulating flyers about the job resources and skills training available at the program's headquarters, the UA House at Fayette operated by Living Classrooms. The case manager was persistent in following up with DeShawn to discuss his goals, tell him about job opportunities he might be qualified for, and upcoming skills workshops that might be beneficial to him.
In July, 2016, Deshawn enrolled in the workforce development program that targets residents living within the Baltimore Target Investment Zone (TIZ), a 2.5 square mile area where Living Classrooms and partner organizations are working together to deliver core education, workforce development, and health and wellness programs focused on disrupting a cycle of generational poverty.
Upon his enrollment, Deshawn worked with our team to create a goal strategy plan that would help guide him towards success, and then completed the program's thirteen essential skills workshops. He learned both soft skills such as attitude and communication tools, as well as hard skills associated with digital and financial literacy, resume writing, and interview techniques.
After completing the workforce development program, DeShawn landed a construction job with Bill Bridges Enterprises. And while he is grateful for this new opportunity and steady income, he continues to visit Living Classrooms' two workforce hubs at the UA House at Fayette and the Adult Resource Center to explore further career opportunities and utilize the social support and resources available to the community. These sites also offer on-the-spot healthcare support through Charm City Clinic as well as assistance with social services and food stamp purchase through the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
The community hubs are also a place where Deshawn can engage with his peers both from the program and within the community. He realizes that his experience means he has valuable insight to share with others who are walking a similar path and often finds himself dispensing advice so that he can help others become a success story too.
"It's a program anyone can use, no matter your age, if you have the right attitude and willingness to work, anyone can be successful in this program," he said.
Now looking toward the future, Deshawn is preparing for his entrance exam in September and is hoping to be accepted to the apprenticeship program at the local Carpenters' Union. Now equipped to travel a successful career path, Deshawn admits he owes much of his success to the work he did in the Target Investment Zone's Workforce Development Program, "the program changed my outlook, my every day routine, they've helped me so much, changed my life," he said.