March 4, 2014

Rock Hill work program celebrates 1st graduation

Renew our Community in Rock Hill is providing comprehensive job training to help its clients enter the workforce. The agency held its first job training graduation on Tuesday.

Renew Our Community is known for trying to get people back on their feet. The York County organization provides computer time, guidance, snacks or just a warm place to spend the day, whatever its clients need.

Now, ROC can add job training to its list of services, as the first group of students completing Stage One of ROC Works’ WorkReady program received their certificates during an emotional ceremony on Tuesday.

“This is a morning where dreams are starting to come true,” said Bruce McKagan, who organizes the ROC Works program.

During Stage One, 11 ROC clients, all men previously down on their luck, completed 25 hours of classroom, one-on-one, and on-the-job training to help prepare them to try to enter the workforce.

One of the most important parts of their education was identifying essential employee traits, which include having a positive attitude, dependability and a willingness to learn.

Two graduates of this phase of the program, who were also leaders among the group, congratulated their colleagues and reminded them of all they had learned in the last month.

“If you don’t have a good work ethic,” said Jeffrey Gilmore, “you’re wasting your life.”

With a big smile on his face, Willie Quinn told the men that their journey wasn’t over yet.

“There’s nothing that we can’t do,” he said.

Now that Stage One is over, the group will move into Stage Two – practicing those work qualities through paid work in the community.

Local pastor Jay Wright, lead pastor at The Village Church in Rock Hill, said the first group ROC is reaching out to for work opportunities is the faith community.

The idea is to get the 11 men working to continue to build their skills and grow as individuals, Wright said, and to give the community an opportunity to help them on their journey to economic independence.

In this phase, ROC Works service manager Bill Gilchrist said, the goal is to get the men work for 20 hours a week during the next three months.

“We’re a little different work team,” Gilchrist said. “We’re out to work. We’re out to grow.”

ROC founder Dale Dove said ROC Works is all about continuing the mission of the center: to make sure people know that their life has a purpose.

“You – no matter who you are – you have value and you have worth,” he said.

A year ago, when Quinn first learned of ROC, he never imagined he’d be have this big a blessing bestowed on him. But even more impressive to Quinn than the skills he’s learned are the skills he’s watched the other men in his cohort learn.

“I’m really impressed,” he said. “I learn more from them than they learn from me.”

Asked how he feels about moving into the workforce, Quinn gave a big smile: “Ecstatic.”

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