As the church became crowded with friends, family, and loved ones, Work Options for Women anxiously celebrated our second student graduation of 2011. Ten students received their graduation certificates, and six were able to join us for an evening of celebration. Well over sixty friends and family members showed up – proud, loyal, and supportive!
This is my second graduation since joining the Work Options for Women staff. The emotion, pride, and admiration I have for these five women and one man are hard to express adequately. Having the honor of personally interviewing each person and learning more about them and their journey through WOW, my heartstrings pulled in so many directions. Biting my lip, I refused to breakdown, blinking back tears as details of the past were uncovered through basic questions. What is your favorite thing to cook? How did you learn about WOW? List three words to describe yourself. What is next for you?
As these questions seemed simple enough, tangents would happen, taking me down roads I wasn’t prepared to follow. One student had just lost their mother that very week. One student came to WOW through a cousin who had completed the program five years ago – she joined WOW as a promise to her cousin to follow her dream of cooking (her cousin committed suicide a year ago). One student is a veteran, an adoptive mother for children without a home. Then there was the student who became her daughters’ role model after completing the program – showing them a different path.
One consistent message that I learned from each and every student that I spoke with…they are all happy. Each student used that one word to describe themselves. Though their lives have been thrown challenges and obstacles we can’t possibly comprehend, they are happy.
I left graduation humbled, tears streaming down my face, but with an inner happiness that I love my job, I love what I do, and I love who I do it for. Unfortunately, I must wait another six months before the next graduation, but I am already excited to meet our next round of students.
– Laurie Peterson, Director of Development of WOW