November 18, 2016
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As the 12 women walked up the aisle in their caps and gowns, the only thing bigger than their smiles was their dreams. The first graduates of YWCA Central Alabama’s SMILE (Single Mothers Invested, Learning, Empowered) program, the women are looking forward to brighter futures for their families.
“This was nothing but a blessing,” PreShawn, one of the graduates of the dental assistant training program, said. “I’m going to take this opportunity and run with it.”
The 12-week class was the result of a community partnership that will give single mothers living in poverty the opportunity to fulfill their potential. The Women’s Fund of Greater Birmingham provided seed money for the program through its Collaboration Institute, which was created to allow agencies to join forces and build programs to fill holes in existing services.
Instructors from Jefferson State Community College taught the course at the YWCA, and Faith Walkers Church provided delicious meals for the students on class days. On Fridays, the women participated in lab at the office of Dr. Jeffrey R. Gilbert, DMD, whose staff provided hands-on training. Although most of the women had children in the YW’s child development program, Huggs & Kisses Sick Child Care allowed the women’s children to attend when they were under the weather.
“This has truly been a collaborative effort,” YWCA CEO Yolanda Sullivan said. “This is an amazing opportunity because the dental field is such a lucrative one. This has the potential to be life-changing for these women, and we are going to be celebrating them for a long time.”
All of the women earned either an A or B in the course, according to Mary Jane Gibson, coordinator of career and volunteer programs for the YW. She and Valerie Johnson, special projects manager, headed up the program. After congratulating the women, Gibson had a special message for the children.
“Kids, looks at your moms,” she said during the ceremony. “I hope that you beam with pride that they are yours. They worked so hard, and I hope that you can look to them as the examples they are.” Gibson later presented the graduates with gift bags provided by Protective Life Corporation that contained a portfolio, lunchbox, water bottle and gift cards for gas and scrubs.
“I believe my future is going to be so much brighter,” said PreShawn, a survivor of domestic violence. “All I want to do is to make sure my kids have everything they need. I have that chance now, and I am so thankful.”
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