Last Wednesday, May 24, graduating seniors in Goodwill’s Career Leadership Academy for Youth (CLAY) program announced their post-secondary decisions during a “College Signing Day” hosted during the program’s annual End-of-Year Celebration at the Goodwill Opportunity Campus.
Of the 84 students enrolled in the program – from freshmen in high school to seniors in college – 16 high school seniors unveiled their college selections in front of an audience including parents, family members, friends, Goodwill team members and board members. The “College Signing Day” event was inspired by former First Lady Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher initiative – an effort to inspire every student in America to take charge of their future by completing their education past high school, whether at a professional training program, a community college, or a four-year college or university.
College selections included University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, University of North Carolina at Asheville, North Carolina A&T University, North Carolina Central University, Central Piedmont Community College, Norfolk State University, Livingstone College, Bennett College and more. Students were awarded with branded merchandise for their new school by the CLAY program. Goodwill team members and guests wore college t-shirts in support, and offered advice for the students as they begin the next chapter of their lives.
“I’m excited to start a new chapter in my life,” said Anitra Griffin, a graduating senior in the CLAY program. “I’m ready and I know I have the support I need to take the next steps into adulthood.” Read more about Anitra’s inspiring journey here.
Piloted in 2011, CLAY is a long-term program equipped to work with high school and college students ages 14-21 who may face various life challenges. Graduating seniors are currently enrolled in nine Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools high schools, including Phillip O. Berry Academy of Technology, West Charlotte High School, West Mecklenburg High School, North Mecklenburg High School, Vance High School, Independence High School, Northwest School of the Arts, Butler High School and Myers Park High School.
This year, the CLAY program will celebrate its first four-year college graduate when one of the participants graduates from North Carolina Central University in May 2017. The program is also on track for a 100 percent graduation or promotion rate this year of students advancing to the next level of education or entering into adulthood.
“We’re excited to support our students to and through their post-secondary endeavors,” said Kwain Bryant, Manager of Youth Services at Goodwill Industries of the Southern Piedmont. “And we’re looking forward to then assisting them with putting their education and training to work.”
The goal of the CLAY program is to quality youth for jobs in a competitive global economy and ultimately achieve Goodwill’s vision of family sustaining employment. The program provides academic coaching and tutoring four days per week, as well as personal meetings with a Goodwill vocational coaching specialist at least once per month to develop a goal plan and navigate the many obstacles that teens may encounter in day-to-day life. Youth in the program receive financial aid and college application assistance, plus SAT/ACT prep, as well as attend horizon broadening experiences (similar to field trips), and this year embarked on college visits to nine major state universities. The program hosts guest speaker presentations and quarterly family nights to equip parents with tools in financial aid, tax preparation for dependents, summer employment opportunities, and advice on understanding teens and parenting skills to promote academic achievement.
Congratulations to our graduating seniors as they begin this next chapter in their lives!