Empowering individuals to lead better lives

This posting originally ran as a blog on Focus: HOPE’s web site. It was written by Hachem Ossieran, Program Coordinator.

I’ve been working with Earn and Learn since it started in August. This new program connects people with jobs and job training. The participants take four weeks of work readiness training and then become eligible for placement in part time jobs and additional job training.

Hachem Ossieran, Program Coordinator for Focus: HOPE.

Hachem Ossieran, Program Coordinator for Focus: HOPE.

My favorite thing about it is being able to make a difference and impact lives of a vulnerable population. 44% of those unemployed in Detroit are between 18 and 24. It’s often called “generational unemployment.” That’s one of our criteria for acceptance into Earn and Learn. Applicants to our program have to be either a young minority male, have been incarcerated at some point and recently released, or chronically unemployed. They also must live in Detroit, Highland Park or Hamtramck. These groups are very disenfranchised from the labor market economy and our role is to facilitate a transition into the workforce.

Working with Earn and Learn gives me a chance to hear personal stories, and some of them I can relate to. We’re able to help individuals, but it’s not always a smooth process. It doesn’t come without challenges. Applicants have to score at a minimum 6th grade level in reading and math to get into the program and a significant number fall short of this minimum requirement. We refer such people to services to get them to that level.

Some challenges are unexpected. One student came to sit for the TABE test, and had a hearing problem; he wasn’t able to hear the instructions clearly. As a result, one of our case managers referred him to a physician who was happy to provide pro bono work. It turned out the student had a hearing disability, and he got a $3,000 hearing aid free of charge. One seemingly simple thing can really make the difference in how someone’s future looks. We also had a student in work readiness training who had a problem with his retina. We referred him to another doctor and he was able to get an assessment where they determined he needed surgery. He had the surgery in December, and he is now entering a deconstruction program, through the Warm Training Center, which he is expected to finish in May.

My work in the program is centered around report writing, supporting job development and case managers in addition to assisting with processing paperwork for the city. I know I’m part of something that has the ability to create change. I feel pleased because I know I’m able to make a difference by empowering individuals to lead better lives.