After two years of hard work and dedication, the students of the Mather Community Campus just east of Rosemont stood up in front of their friends, families and peers to celebrate their new lives and achievements at “The Miracles Continue” graduation ceremony Wednesday. The ceremony took place in the campus’ auditorium, where the 22 formerly homeless men and women were recognized for completing a program that guided them to jobs, a safe place to live and the path to a new life.
The organization is supported by a Rosemont-based nonprofit, and pastor Rick Cole gave an invocation at the ceremony.
The 22 graduates represented the 50 students who graduated in the 2011 class, a third of those who originally joined their class in 2009. Since opening in 1995, the school has been able to graduate more than 2,000 adults and children, who were once homeless and without income.
“I am so much more than I thought I could be because I came here,” said Karen Braddock, graduate and leader in the Joint Resident Council. Almost in tears, Braddock shared with her class sentimental remarks of the encouragement and the support she received at the Member Community Campus, as well as excitement for recently becoming a first-time voter.
Mather Community Campus is a collaborative project between Volunteers of America, Sacramento Area Emergency Housing Center and Rosemont-based . Last year, Volunteers of America took charge of the program after Sacramento County budget cuts put the program in jeopardy.
"This was God's program–he wasn't going to let anything happen to it," said Valerie Arrington, a Mather Community Campus alumna and current employee at Volunteers of America.
Despite the challenges the program has faced over the past year, the graduates of Wednesday night's ceremony were beaming with an uncontrollable sense of happiness and pride. In order to be a graduate, one must find permanent housing, be steadily employed for three months, resolved any personal issues that might have caused their homelessness and complete an assessment by the Community Campus staff.
"There is no way a person would not succeed here unless they don't want to," said graduate Duffie Jeffrey. Jeffrey was homeless for a year because of an alcohol and drug addiction. She entered the program in 2009 and since then has gained credentials as a drug and alcohol counselor and graduated salutatorian at Intercoast College.
Mather Community Campus not only offers its members a rigorous curriculum of life skills, success management, counseling and technical training, but also a sense of family and community for those who have faced a great deal of challenges.
"You do good things, good things happen," graduate Bob Cupé said. Thanks to two years of dedication, Cupé received training to work in solar thermal services and was able to graduate a month early.
Wednesday night’s ceremony was the mark of a new era for the Mather Community Campus’ class of 2011. In addition to their recognition, many of the participants have also received a stipend of $1,000. The stipend is an accumulation of rewards for having completed classes, community service, graduation from a class, finding a job and then keeping that job for more than three months.