ACE held a graduation ceremony at its Long Island City headquarters for graduates who successfully secured full-time employment through its workforce development program.
The graduates, who overcame various obstacles including homelessness, incarceration, substance abuse and poverty, were celebrated for their achievements as they shared their personal stories.
“Before I came here, I had a substance abuse problem and I was a broken person,” said graduate Peter Rosa.
Rosa, who began the program last August, was previously in a treatment program due to a problem with alcohol. As he improved, he was recommended to ACE, which helped him acquire full employment on his own at a hotel in Brooklyn in November.
“I wouldn’t be where I am right now if it wasn't for ACE, and that’s a fact,” he said.
ACE director of development Travis Tinney said the program’s main focus is to help men and women in homeless shelters, transitional homes, and rehabilitation centers find full-time jobs.
“We’re giving people the opportunities that they want, that they need, and that they deserve to fulfill their potential and contribute to their communities through work,” he said.
Tinney explained that the program issues an assessment of each participant to determine where they are in terms of skills. Then it provides adult education, job-readiness training, and work experience to help them secure employment.
In addition, he said ACE stays in contact with their graduates for two years in order to ensure they are employed, and to offer additional training to build on their interests and earning capacities.
Graduates who maintain their employment for six months can also apply for a housing subsidy provided by ACE.
“It’s a long-term focus on making sure people are able to exit the cycle of poverty and homelessness permanently,” Tinney said.
Rosa said the program provided him with computer skills and certificates that helped him build his resume and secure a job. In addition, it helped him build his self-confidence after dealing with substance abuse.
“Getting a job on my own, that was a great confidence booster,” he said. “Tremendous.”
“Everybody in this building touched me in some type of way,” added graduate Richard Smith.
“Either they taught me something, showed me something, or just sat down and talked to me.”
Prior to his time at ACE, Smith had been incarcerated and faced substance abuse and homelessness. He said he reached the point where he felt tired of his situation and signed himself into a program that led him to ACE.
“I never thought of anything else but the streets until ACE showed me another way,” he said.
The program provided Smith with computer skills, resume building, and interview drills that helped him feel comfortable and prepare him for job interviews. It was through this training that he secured a job as a porter in Manhattan.
“The same questions I was taught were the ones they asked me,” he said. “I was prepared to answer those questions.”
Smith said he owed a lot to the program and hoped to start his own business in the future with the skills and self-worth he gained through ACE.
“I feel more alive now than I've ever felt in my life,” he said.