Tag Archives: graduation

For the Record Books: ACSS Class 29

graduatewidefullBy Natalie Lynch | ACSS Volunteer

Before I heard the words, I knew something was unique about Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency’s 29th Graduating Class. There was something contagious and prideful in the widths of their smiles. The way they held their heads up high made them all appear taller than anyone else in the room.

At a March 22 graduation ceremony held at the Atlanta, Mission, Class 29 had earned bragging rights that day, with the highest graduation rate of any ACSS class. Many of the graduates obtained employment prior to graduation and still had perfect attendance records.

In the weeks leading up to graduation, members of each ACSS class are taught job-related skills as well as proficiencies for obtaining employment, such as help with resumes and how to answer tough interview questions.

keynotefullIt was quickly apparent why Danny Tennial was nominated for Class President and chosen to speak at graduation. He was a vibrant and enthusiastic speaker, who both amused and captivated the audience.

He told the graduates, “If you can’t walk, crawl… If you can’t be the sun, be a star.”

He told them to carry an affirmation each day and repeat it, “We are powerful, ambitious, creative, determined.”

NoviembreKeynote speaker Maurice Novembre spoke humbly of his fall from grace. He worked in web design and media format for SDK International and had credits in the movie Hope. He got involved in what he called some “unsavory women and activities” and two years later, at age 25, was living out of his car.

With the help of ACSS, and a couple of years of hard work and determination, he obtained employment in the mailroom for a company.

He said, “Your path is hard for a reason, and you should not have any sense of entitlement.”

graduatefullNovembre has no plans to stay in the mailroom. But he is working very hard while he is there and learning as much as he can about the organization.

His short-term goals include obtaining a management position in the organization. And his long-term goals include owning his own company. However, he does not want to be boss; he wants to be a leader.

The difference, Novembre said, is that “a boss is delegated and a leader is chosen by their peers.”

DanaAt the end of the graduation ceremony, Dana Johnson, CEO and president of ACSS, made closing remarks.

“Thank you for letting me work for you,” Johnson said. “We work as hard as we do because we believe in you.”

Past graduates of the ACSS program were recognized.

As only a witness to this graduation, and an ACSS volunteer, I was proud of these graduates who worked so hard to change their lives. Change is hard. It takes courage, determination and strength. From what I saw of Class 29, they have all of these things and so much more.

RallyACSS is always looking for more volunteers. You can make a difference to help change someone’s life, and volunteering makes you feel good! Please visit us online to learn more about volunteer opportunities with ACSS.

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ACSS Class 23 Equipped for Success

Graduates of Class #23 are career-ready thanks to ACSS CareerWorks training and some generous gifts from their keynote speaker.

After a powerful and moving speech, Jacqueline Plair-Rushin, director of global deployment and corporate services at InterContinental Hotels Group, presented each graduate with a gift consisting of a high quality rolling computer bag, professional folios and a WiFi-ready laptop computer. The graduates and audience were ecstatic!

Thanks, Jacque, for going above and beyond!

You too can help ACSS empower homeless individuals to reach their full potential to thrive in life! Take action here.

About CareerWorks: CareerWorks is an intense job-readiness and life skills program that prepares homeless individuals for permanent, full-time employment. Click here for details.

About Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency: ACSS is committed to breaking the cycle of homelessness in metro Atlanta and beyond. ACSS empowers homeless individuals to achieve economic self-sufficiency and their ultimate potential to thrive in life. Please visit our website at AtlantaCSS.org. We’re also on Facebook and Twitter.





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Graduation Day for ACSS CareerWorks Class 17

ACSS Class 17 Graduation.

On March 2nd, ACSS held a graduation ceremony at a new venue — Atlanta Mission’s downtown facility across from Centennial Olympic Park.

The ceremony was filled with excitement and high emotion… as usual. We graduated 27 VIPs in CareerWorks Class Number 17. To support our graduates, five prospective students for Class 18 were there — along with friends and family of the graduates, the ACSS Staff, ACSS student volunteers from the University of Michigan and a host of supporters from Atlanta Mission.

In her address to fellow CareerWorks graduates, Class 17 President Brandi Bell said, “ACSS empowers our dreams.”

You can read more about Brandi here. And please visit our Facebook page to see more photos of the event!

CareerWorks is an intense job readiness and life skills training program that continues to offer resources and support to graduates even after they gain employment.

The graduates of ACSS Class 17 are breaking the cycle of homelessness in their lives. But they could not have done it without the generous support of ACSS’ donors and volunteers. To find out how you can support future CareerWorks classes and other ACSS programs, please click here for information on volunteer opportunities and here for ways to donate.

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Who are the homeless? They are us.

ACSS Class 17 President Brandi Bell.

Meet Brandi Bell. Class President. Associates’ Degree. Pursuing bachelor’s degree at Georgia State. Florida cosmetology license. Mom to Kyle. Bright, enthusiastic, smart. And, homeless.

What? How can Brandi, with all of her special gifts and talents, be living in a shelter? Brandi’s story has been told countless times, especially in the brutal economy of the past four years. The difference is that Brandi entered the CareerWorks program at Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency a month ago and now she has a plan.

In her address to the 17th ACSS graduating class, Brandi thanked the staff and volunteers and congratulated her classmates. Her enduring remark merits some thought: “ACSS empowers our dreams.”

I talked to Brandi after the graduation reception and asked her about her Five Year Plan, one of the cornerstones of ACSS’s employment readiness program.

Brandi is a very focused and realistic woman. She knows that a dream is just an idea without a plan, and that long-term dreams get put on the back burner when the immediate priority is to find employment and affordable housing. So, her plan includes short-term actions (job, housing) and long-term goals (a bachelor’s degree in Marketing to work with a hair care line in Atlanta).

Brandi would love to work right now in customer service and I could see her in that role. She is upbeat, professional and friendly. And wouldn’t we all love to hear someone like that when we call with a customer service problem!

I asked Brandi what she would be doing on Monday. She had her whole week mapped out with meetings, interviews — and it will start all over again the week after, and the one after that, until she and Kyle have a home — because she is on the path to her dream.

ACSS provides support for Brandi and others like her who have graduated from the program. There is abundant evidence that followup prevents individuals from falling between the cracks and losing heart in this difficult job market.

All of us have needed a hand up some time in our lives. All of us have benefited from a mentor from time to time. These things have empowered our dreams and transformed them from ideas into reality. This is what has happened to Brandi Bell and her 26 classmates. This is what ACSS does every day.  

You can meet someone like Brandi Bell every day at ACSS. Attend a monthly graduation ceremony. Donate. Volunteer. There are so many ways to be a mentor and be that hand up in a person’s life.

Meanwhile, I’ll be looking out for Brandi Bell somewhere in Atlanta, pursuing her dream. She is going places.

Written by Barbara Hughes. Barbara is an ACSS volunteer and serves on our Marketing & Communications Committee.

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Triathlete’s Advice to ACSS Graduates: “Build on Your Little Wins”

Triathlete Bishop Leatherbury found his inspiration in the affirmation of ACSS Class 13: "Powerful Warriors, Victorious Champions!"

“Take it one mile at a time,” Bishop Leatherbury advised graduates of ACSS Class 14. “Build on your little wins and when you get setbacks, take it in stride.”

Bishop is an ACSS board member, Southeast regional managing partner at Tatum Partners, LLC and, most recently, a successful finisher in the Ironman World Championship — a grueling triathlon in Kona, Hawaii.

He joined the competition to raise funds and awareness for ACSS, a non-profit organization that empowers homeless persons to gain meaningful and permanent employment through intense life skills and job readiness training programs. You can see his fundraising progress here: http://ironman.acss.kintera.org

While competing, Bishop says he was inspired by an affirmation coined by members of the previous graduating class (13): “We are Powerful Warriors, Victorious Champions!” With a thick black marker, Bishop inscribed “PWVC” on his hands, which he glanced at often for encouragement throughout the long triathlon.

The Ironman World Championship has a strict time limit of 17 hours. Bishop set a personal goal of 14 hours. See how he did in the video!

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ACSS Graduate Steve Foley: “A Transformation Took Place”

ACSS Graduate Steve Foley

Steve Foley, one of our VIPs (Visionary Innovative Partners) and president of ACSS Class #13, delivered this speech to our staff, volunteers, supporters and his fellow graduates at their Sept. 30 commencement ceremony.

Distinguished faculty, guests and COHORTS!

WOW!!! What a whirlwind it has been for the last four weeks. We have learned A LOT! We learned how important motivation is to starting our day.

Personal affirmations are essential to building our self esteem. We did this every morning during this process – and for me – the difference can be seen by others.

There was a transformation that took place. We changed from people who really didn’t know why they were here; to people who knew the purpose of self-worth, positive attitudes and a new found confidence in ourselves and our abilities.

The Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency staff has given us tools to give us the best chance possible of landing, not just a job, but to build a career.

Now, it is up to us to take those tools and build upon the solid foundation that we have gained here.

Another invaluable asset that we have gained from the staff is HOPE! This hope is of a great and rewarding future of self-sufficiency. This will happen because we will persevere. The reason for that perseverance is because “We Are Powerful Warriors and Victorious Champions!”

Our graduation ceremonies are always inspiring and a great way to experience the results of ACSS programs. If you would like to join us for a future ceremony, please contact us for the schedule.

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ACSS Graduation: “Opening the Door into Our Potential”

On March 4, the Atlanta Center for Self Sufficiency held a graduation ceremony for our 6th CareerWorks class. After successfully completing four weeks of intense job readiness and life skills training, these 31 graduates are ready to join the workforce.

But the program doesn’t stop there. For the next 12 months, ACSS will continue working closely with each graduate, supporting their path to success and self-sufficiency.

“It’s a full-year that we have available to us assistance in job search, assistance in housing,” said Darryl, an ACSS graduate. “So, we’re really just opening the door at this graduation into our potential.”

Here’s a 60 second video with highlights of the graduation ceremony.


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