July 21, 2017
Omedia Walker-Harris was scrolling through Facebook when she saw a post about YWCA Central Alabama’s vision assistant training program for single mothers. “I thought it was a good opportunity and I started to send it to a friend,” the single mother of four said. “Then I thought, ‘Wait a minute, I can do that.’ I’m so glad I did.”
Walker-Harris was one of 10 women who recently graduated from the SMILE (Single Mothers Invested, Learning, Empowered) program. “It’s a fresh start for me and my children,” she said. “I’ve definitely learned that I’m stronger than I think.”
The program was a partnership between the YWCA, Jefferson State Community College and Schaeffer Eye Center, and it was made possible by a donor advised fund of the Community Foundation of Greater Birmingham.
“I know all it takes is one door to open to change someone’s course,” said Dr. Brooke Schaeffer Kaplan, who taught the class. “The dedication and time these ladies devoted to this is unbelievable. They are amazing, and they are willing to do anything they can for their family and to better their children’s lives.”
Walker-Harris, who is recently divorced, said she had been looking to return to the workforce. “This is a new beginning,” the class valedictorian said. “It means stability and no more fear.”
Mary Jane Gibson, coordinator of career and volunteer programs for the YW, said she was proud of the graduates and excited about the possibilities the certification will provide. “This is a special night and it’s the culmination of lots of hard work and determination,” she told them. “You encouraged each other and pushed each other through. We are so excited about what is to come for each of you.”
Graduate Whitney Bryant said she was grateful to everyone who made the program possible. “You gave us an opportunity to advance and grow,” she said. “We can only go up from here!”
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