TAP’s This Valley Works graduates discuss inspiration, future plans

This Valley Works graduates are sharing their expectations for the future and how their respective programs helped them achieve their goals.

Total Action for Progress, or TAP, had its graduation Wednesday night for the This Valley Works programs.

There are 15 programs under This Valley Works that give Education and employment training for people from middle school into seniors.

The This Valley Works director Jo Nelson says these programs are critical for the area because they work with the students at the level they are at.

“We will take somebody who has no high school education, or who can’t read or maybe has English as a second language and regardless we will work with them to get them where they need to be,” Nelson said.

She says a big portion of what they do is job placement and about 85 percent of their students leave with a job.

Shaquasia Haywood gave the student address at the graduation. She offered advice to her fellow graduates.

“It’s never too late to pursue the goals that you’ve been putting off,” said Haywood. “Be gentle on yourself, be easy on your journey and forgive your past mistakes and focus on your future. “

She’s been through a few GED programs and had a hard time finding one that worked for her.

“I didn’t really think that I would get my GED, cause I’ve tried so many times, but they really push you here,” said Haywood.

She graduated from the Young Adult Life Enhancement, or Y.A.L.E., program. She says it helped her land a job at an after-school literacy program.

“The goal of Y.A.L.E. program is that they don’t want to stick you with just any old job, it’ll be a job to help you stay in it and for you to like it and for you to grow,” said Haywood.

She plans on going to college to study child development or social work and wants to start looking for schools next fall.

She was joined by Danera Kinsey, who graduated from the Project Discovery Program, which helps kids from 6th to 12th grade get into college.

Danera says her brother had a severe spinal cord surgery when she was in 8th grade, so her mom became his primary caregiver and couldn’t travel with her to schools, but she was able to visit schools because of Project Discovery.

“I’m attending Virginia State University this fall and if it wasn’t for project discovery I would have never known about Virginia State. I visited the school with this program,” said Kinsey.

Coordinator for Project Discovery Margo Stokes says she’s proud of Kinsey and all her students.

“There’s a lot of kids out here that don’t understand what it takes to get into school. They don’t understand what it takes to qualify. And there’s a lot of parents that don’t understand the college process so we try to educate the kids as well as the parents,” said Stokes.

“We’ve had a lot of kids who have been through a lot of things and faced a lot of adversity. And they’ve overcome it and they just worked really hard.”

Another graduate was Lakeisha Saunders who was honored as the outstanding Swift Start student of the year.

The Swift Start program gives training for parents of young children to get higher paying jobs. The program provides childcare and classes which is something Lakeisha says she needed because she has 5 kids ages 10-14.

“I always tell them that you can do anything that you put your mind to. So this means a lot to me which is why we’re here today and they’re so happy. They’re like, ‘Mom you’re graduating! We’re going to your graduation. And I’m thinking yay! So I’m showing them you can do anything,” said Saunders.

Anyone interested can call their office 540-767-6220, go on their website, or their Facebook page.

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