For many people in mental health and substance abuse recovery taking the next steps requires tremendous courage and strength. Montgomery County Community College’s Partnership on Work Enrichment and Readiness program – POWER – gives them the support and skills they need to take those brave steps.
MCCC recently celebrated the accomplishments of 21 students who successfully completed the POWER program and 10 students who completed the POWER-Plus program.
The POWER program provides a free 14-week, two-credit course that focuses on career self-assessment, presentation skills, time management, computer basics, goal setting, resume and cover letter preparation and interview skills, among others, to help people with their education or careers. POWER Plus provides ongoing support for people who are taking college classes or who are employed as result of their participation in the POWER program.
MCCC Interim President Dr. Victoria Bastecki-Perez; MCCC Board of Trustees Chair Frank X. Custer; Montgomery County Commissioners Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, Chair, and Ken E. Lawrence, Jr., Vice Chair; Montgomery County Behavioral Health/Developmental Disabilities/Early Intervention Administrator Pam Howard; and Director of Montgomery County Department of Health and Human Services Tara Gaudin, as well as a few graduating students, spoke at the event.
For POWER Plus student, Seth Berman, the POWER program provides hope and direction.
“People in recovery often feel defeated, like they’re in a room of darkness and despair with no direction,” Berman said. “But in this darkness, there is this pinpoint of light, and that light is hope. I can’t take control of my life without hope. The POWER program gives hope to so many people – people who are ready to give up, but then they find out there is a future.”
Since the POWER program was founded in 2006, it has served nearly 600 students who have graduated from the program, according to POWER Director Lisa Barbiero. More than 50 of those graduates have continued their education at MCCC and earned their degrees or credentials and many others entered the workforce.
Currently 56 former POWER students are taking classes at MCCC, including 13 from the recent graduating class, she said.
As part of the ceremony, several POWER graduates shared their stories, describing the personal challenges they overcame and how the POWER program provides the self-assurance and skills they will need in the future.
For Raleigh Beard, the POWER program helped him to overcome his anxiety and feel excited about pursuing his education. He plans to major in Psychology and eventually get his Ph.D. to focus on research on the long-term effects of childhood trauma.
“I want to help others cope with the negative effects of situation that is out of their control,” said Beard, who was the victim of child abuse.
For Elizabeth Johnston, the POWER program helped her to learn valuable time management skills, as she balances working and taking classes.
“I’m going to take two classes in the spring,” Johnston told the audience. “The guidance and encouragement I received have been very helpful in making me feel confident – all of you (looking at the POWER team) have been amazing.”
Johnston plans to complete her degree in Human Services and eventually wants to work as a drug and alcohol counselor at a treatment facility.
The POWER team includes Director Lisa Barbiero, Community Liaison, Joseph Delzingaro, Employment, Grant Coordinator Tarsha Scovens, Coordinator Holly Harris, Peer Mentor Kevin Ford, Strategies for College Success Instructor Teyne Crum-Obasuyi and Dean of Social Sciences Dr. Aaron Shatzman.
The POWER program is funded by the Montgomery County Office of Health and Human Services, The Pew Charitable Trust, the Patricia Kind Family Foundation, the Montgomery County Foundation, the Charter Foundation, and Montgomery County Community College. To make a donation to support the POWER program, visit mc3.edu/give and select “POWER program” from the list.
Individuals interested in the POWER program may obtain a referral from their mental health or school provider or may self-refer. For more information, contact the Director, Lisa Barbiero at 215-641-6425 or firstname.lastname@example.org.