When he was a teenager, Alex Abraham’s life got off track as he started experimenting with alcohol and drugs. By the time he was in his early twenties, his drug use escalated, and he found himself in jail multiple times. At age 27, he was in a county jail cell, looking at time in state prison on felony charges.
Fortunately for Abraham, he learned about two programs that changed his life. He entered Judge Steven T. O’Neill’s Montgomery County Drug Treatment Court program to recover from his addiction. He then enrolled in Montgomery County Community College’s Partnership on Work Enrichment and Readiness (POWER) Program, a free two-credit college course that helps people in addiction or mental health recovery gain skills and confidence in achieving their career and education goals.
“POWER has done a lot,” said Abraham during the POWER graduation ceremony on April 27. “It has given me the confidence to walk into class and the confidence to be able to participate.”
Abraham plans to enroll in classes at MCCC in the fall and eventually continue his education to earn his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in management.
This semester, 23 students graduated from the POWER Program and 13 graduated from the POWER-Plus Program, a supportive program that assists POWER graduates as they continue their education or obtain employment.
Since the POWER Program started in 2006, nearly 600 students have graduated from the program. Currently, there are 52 POWER-Plus students who are enrolled in classes at MCCC.
For POWER graduate Kelsie Righter, 23, the program helped to develop her confidence and self-esteem.
“I was able to complete the semester without attempting suicide, and I view that as an accomplishment and something to be proud of,” said Righter, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia and bulimia and has been under treatment for her mental health issues.
In addition to the skills and support received through POWER and POWER-Plus, this semester MCCC offered a free Office Management Skills course that taught computer hardware, software and customer service skills. Seven students completed this course.
This semester’s POWER Advocate Award was presented to Patricia Nye, a psychiatric rehabilitation practitioner and outpatient therapist at the Penn Foundation’s Wellspring Clubhouse, a psychiatric rehabilitation program for people with chronic mental illnesses.
“This is our seventh graduation, and so far, 15 people have graduated from the POWER Program, and many have continued to take classes at Montco,” said Nye, who is a 2011 alumna of MCCC’s Human Services program.
The POWER team includes Director Lisa Barbiero, Community Liaison Lori Schreiber, Employment and Grant Coordinator Tarsha Scovens, Program Coordinator Holly Harris, Peer Mentor George Rohde, Faculty Byron Goldstein, Faculty Rosemary Regan and Dean of Social Sciences Division Dr. Aaron Shatzman.
The POWER Program is funded by the Pew Charitable Trust, Montgomery County Office of Behavioral Health, the Odd Fellows of Philadelphia, Pat Kind Family Foundation and Montgomery County Community College.