Fairfax resident Cristy Magwood took another step last Thursday toward getting her life back together. She graduated from Training Futures in Springfield, where she learned some computer skills and landed a job at Litman Law offices in Arlington.
Tears were hard to fight back when she addressed the fellow graduates and supporters of the program.
"The future is mine, no one's going to take it away from me. I've had many challenges. I decided I wasn't going to quit," she said.
Her challenges included a felony, homelessness, her Section 8 voucher and her children taken away. Magwood intends to use her training to turn her life around.
"It was a big change in my life," she said.
Training Futures is a program sponsored by the Northern Virginia Family Service that "prepares unemployed or underemployed individuals for careers in office work," according to their information. They have a 22-week course where participants are instructed by teachers and volunteers on computers, clerical duties, job-search skills and interpersonal development. Bank of America donated the space in Springfield for the classes. This class of 41 students was the 14th class of Training Futures since its inception in 1996.
There is another Training Futures center in Tysons Corner, where a class will be graduating in mid-October. The next class will start at Springfield on Oct. 14. County governments, city governments, corporate partners and contributions fund the program.
"Ninety percent of the folks that start our program, finish," said Bill Browning, manager of the Northern Virginia Family Service training programs. "We hear back from graduates. Some have moved on to techies, or supervisors."
Bank of America was one of the main sponsors according to Browning.
"Bank of America has been with us for all six years," he said.
Stella Peters, one of the volunteers, was first affiliated with the program after seeing graduates from Training Futures contribute at her company, ING Co.
"We were able to get interns in our company. We were very impressed with the work ethic. These people are motivated," she said.
GUSTAVO RAMIREZ was another at the ceremony with an emotional story. He was a lawyer in Peru but decided to come to the United States when the opportunity arose.
"This is a part of my life I don't talk about very often. The door to the U.S. was open. It was the hardest decision I ever made. Because of my children, we came to this country 14 months ago," he said.
His law experience was not transferable though, and he now holds a pizza delivery job after the Training Futures class in the evening.
"You're right, it wasn't my ideal job. I still deliver pizzas late at night after Training Futures. I hope to be a lawyer once again," he said.
He stood when it was time for all the graduates who have yet to land a job, but he was recognized by Booz, Allen & Hamilton for his efforts. They gave him their Leadership Award.
The guest of honor at the ceremony was 90-year-old Dr. Dorothy Height, a figure in the civil rights movement of the 1960s. She looked at the redundancy of the term "training futures."
"There is no future without the training. It's a very good way of being redundant," she said.
Height also remembered meeting Martin Luther King Jr. when he was 15. King realized his mission and set goals at that age. She turned that experience into a message for the graduates.
"It will make a difference on the job how you see yourself. You will have a better life if you get yourself involved," she said.
Richard Litman of Litman Law in Arlington, was at the table with Tedros Kassala, a former Springfield resident. Litman has hired five of the Training Futures graduates, including Magwood. Litman lives in Fairfax Station.
"I believe we've hired five people through this class. Almost all the ones he sent over, I talked to them on the phone and set up an interview. I would give them an A-plus for preparation for the interview," he said.