COVID-19 has disrupted pretty much everything, and that includes the experience for our Moving Ahead Program’s 184th class. When the class began this winter, it was business as usual. Eager, ready to learn, and often a tiny bit nervous — our students began their journey in the classroom. They got to know each other, mapped out their life journey, and settled in for what we all realized could be a life-changing experience. Then COVID hit. And we were facing the challenge of remapping a program that has always been in person, intensely so. We recently wrote about how MAP was remade from a face-to-face course to a hybrid model combining virtual and in-person learning.
And now, thanks to the resilience of our class members, MAP Class 184 has graduated. Their hybrid graduation ceremony, with some attendees (in masks, and socially distancing) participating in person while others joined in the celebration via Zoom. Class 184 has four amazing graduates — William, James, Heather, and Larry — and Heather and Larry were present for the ceremony. Resilience was the theme of the day.
In her remarks addressing the graduates, St. Francis House President and CEO Karen LaFrazia spoke of “the most unusual MAP journey that ever existed.”
She continued that “never before have our students been so tested. But you both reached in and dealt with all the uncertainties that were being thrown at you.” There were so many additional hurdles that this class had to overcome. When MAP went on hiatus, students had concerns about whether their housing and stipends would continue. (They have!) They were, of course, concerned about their own health. And whether, in the COVID economy, they would be able to find a job.
Through all these challenges, the members of Class 184 forged on.
“And what does that tell you about yourself?” Karen asked. “That you’re strong, you’re flexible. That you’re resilient. Getting through all this is a badge of honor. You can look the world in the eye and say, “come at me world; I can take it.”
Karen also noted that today’s graduation “isn’t the end. It’s a milestone, a marker you place on the journey of life,” and emphasized that St. Francis House would never stop supporting its MAP grads.
Class instructor (and ceremony MC) Jae Spalding underscored Karen’s remarks, telling the grads how proud they are of the class. “The journey ahead of you is to fulfill your own purpose and your own potential,” Jae said. “And as you embark on this new day, moving forward, we’re walking with you.”
For Ashley Cilenti of the Workforce Development Team, the ceremony – her 40th after nearly six years at SFH – was bittersweet, as Ashley will be leaving to move to Virginia. She stressed how difficult the MAP program is, and that graduating from it is a true accomplishment. Heather and Larry thanked the staff for their support, Larry noting that “you always treated us with love and respect.”
The graduates were awarded their certificates, and each grad received a professional portfolio, donated by our supporters at Natixis Investment Managers, holding their printed resumes and a notepad, to be used on interviews.
From all of us at St. Francis House, a BIG CONGRATULATIONS to Heather, James, William, and Larry — the resilient graduates of MAP Class 184. We know you’ll do us all proud, and remember — the St. Francis House community is always with you.