The graduating class at Opportunity High School consisted of just 45 students, and the families, including some youngsters who were the children of the graduates themselves, barely filled the small gymnasium’s bleachers
Read Our Piece of the Pie’s most recent issue brief on Community College success and strategies for improvement.
With today’s job market requiring a credential or degree beyond high school, this issue brief highlights the issues preventing students from succeeding in college. To solve these problems and bring the rate of success up to a level that will fill job market needs, the report offers up small case studies of successful initiatives across the nation. Ranging from remedial education reform to funding incentives, approaches beyond Connecticut are already proving to be effective in improving outcomes for the community college student population. In addition, a case study of OPP’s Postsecondary Success Initiative highlights the fact that, when community college students receive the support they need, they can succeed, and experience the economic and social benefits that come with college graduation.
“I don’t know where I’d be right now if it weren’t for OPP,” says Aida Ruiz, a sophomore at Capital Community College. “They helped me get financial aid so I could enroll at Capital last year, and they’ve been by my side ever since.”
With funding from the National Youth Employment Coalition, OPP has a full-time Youth Development Specialist (YDS) working out of Capital, as well as a part time Workforce Development Specialist. “My YDS helps me with every part of college life, from choosing courses and setting up my schedule to making sure I stay focused on my studies and continue to get good grades,” Ruiz explains. “And the Workforce Development Specialist is helping me get an internship at a TV station this summer, and I’m really excited about that.”
“College can be a real challenge for me some days,” admits Ruiz, who is pursuing a career in broadcasting. “But with all the help I get from OPP, there’s no doubt in my mind that I’ll be successful at school and in my life.”
Photo featuring Aida Ruiz at Capital Community College. Taken by Lanny Nagler for OPP’s 2011/12 Annual Report. Click here to see complete publication!
On Friday, February 1, OPP was well-represented at the United Way of Central & Northeastern Connecticut’s “Best Of” Awards. While I was unable to attend, we had several staff representing OPP this year. They assure me that with every mention of OPP’s name or flashing of the infamous Pie Toss picture, they heartily cheered. I can only imagine their excitement during our two nominations and our award of the coveted ”Best Partner Agency Campaign” award.
For years, OPP has been developing a relationship with the United Way and this Best Partner Agency Campaign award is a testament to their belief in us. Last year, they supported OPP with nearly $350,000 for our Hartford community program and Opportunity High School. Beyond that, the United Way has been a pivotal thought partner and has helped us enhance our model by supporting our outcomes and introducing us to stakeholders in our community and beyond.
In turn, as an organization we support the United Way. We encourage employees to donate to their Community Investment fund each fall and provide many fun opportunities to further give. Of course, thank you again to Chris Murray for coordinating last year’s campaign.
Announced at Friday’s event was the total dollars raised during last
fall’s United Way campaign: $25,380,000. More than twenty-five million dollars; and OPP had a hand in that! I’m so proud of the team over here at OPP and the partnership that we have with the United Way. I encourage everyone to go out and Live United!
Written by Bob Rath, President & CEO of OPP
Sometimes I wonder if everyone sees opportunities the same way I do. When I look at the direction of OPP’s services all I can think about are opportunities for youth, for staff, for communities and for myself. Growing at OPP has always been about noticing when opportunities are knocking on my door. So today I’m sharing with you my check list of items to keep in mind if you are also preparing for the race towards OPPortunities.
What is needed?
· A Goal: setting a goal is understanding that you need a target, a prize if you will, that will keep your focus toward the finish line.
· Strategic Plan: after identifying your prize you will need to strategize and plan how to reach your victory crown. During this time you will need to look at your environment and identify all elements that will support you throughout the race and how to overcome obstacles which stand in your way.
· Training: because winning requires more than just showing up you will need to train and be disciplined in your desire to win. My secret on training is simple; when everyone else is sleeping I’m training and strategizing because failure is not an option and I refuse to be a poor finisher!
· Self-Control: anything worthwhile needs discipline if you want to be successful. Personally, this is the most difficult one for me because it is hard to narrow down specifics in my life or that hinder me from reaching my goal.
· Humility: Understand that it is not about who is stronger because you cannot do everything on your own. We need to rely on each other’s abilities and skill sets in order to be the most efficient employees and leaders as possible. So don’t be afraid of asking for help and allowing others to support you.
· Perseverance: At the end of an amazing story you never get to read that it was easy but that there were challenges along the way that made the success even greater. So if you fall you will need to get up and get back in the race because experiencing the victory will be worth any bruises you may have gotten along the way.
This is a blueprint of my success so I hope that you paid attention and that you are preparing to win because I know that I AM! Follow these things and you may be find more OPPortunities coming your way!
Written by Jinelle Hooker, Supervisor of Pathways in Eastern ConnecticutRead more
It has been stated from time to time that experience defines. Many people are affected by situations in life that may start them down a slippery slope, however with the proper mindset and determination - even with adverse circumstances, success is possible. Upon returning to OPP and beginning my first session of CCDT (Career Competencies Development Training) class, I was given the opportunity to train a cohort of about 10 youth. They were all bright and each had something unique about them.
However M. Vega had that extra special something - that made him stand out in the crowd. M. Vega is a senior at Hartford High School and filled with ambition. During CCDT, youth were asked to describe the career path that they would like to pursue in the future. M. Vega stated the he would like to be the CEO of his own construction company. M. Vega wanted to be the boss and that statement automatically caught my attention.
M. Vega shared with the class during the training that he yearned to become a better person. He also shared how he has had a troubled past and was often misunderstood; but he also has an unwavering desire to prove all of the unsupportive people in his life wrong. In a brief moment of vulnerability, M. Vega indicated that he really needed an extra push and guidance. So immediately, Ibegan assisting him to prepare for his internship. During that time, he would stay after training to make sure that he understood the topic that was covered. I informed him that he would be working in the office of Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra for his internship. Fear gripped him and he thought that he would be unable to succeed in such an important environment. But at that moment, I reminded him of what he’d requested earlier in the training, and subsequently, he boldly took on the challenge.
As of today, M. Vega is still interning at City Hall and receives great reviews every week. His duties include assisting in the day-to-day operations of the Mayor’s Office, working directly with the Chief of Staff on various projects ranging from filing to copying, scanning to emailing and anything else that he can assist with. Recently, M. Vega worked on the Sandy Hook School Memorial Project which is on display at City Hall. Thomas Clarke, Assistant to the Chief of Staff, and also M. Vega’s supervisor constantly states that he is a phenomenal worker and he wants to keep him at City Hall. Clarke stated that, “Vega is a great guy with a wonderful future.”
M. Vega’s journey to success has only just begun! He has intentions on remaining at City Hall and he said that he may even continue in the political arena one day. His persistence and determination for success is unprecedented. M. Vega wants the best things in life and is no longer concerned with the old life filled with less than positive choices that once plagued him. Vega’s testimony like many of our OPP youth deserves to be celebrated! Congratulations Mr. Vega!
Author: Chaz Gatewood, Workforce Development Specialist at Our Piece of the Pie.
Congratulations! You have made it past the resume screening process and have been selected as a potential candidate to fill the position you applied for. While a phone interview can at times seem less intimidating than a face-to-face interview, it is very important that your prepare yourself and take advantage of the opportunities that phone interviews provide.
1) Location: Identify a place where you will not be interrupted by noise, light, smell, etc. If you are on a landline make sure everything is fully plugged in but if you are on a cell phone be sure to check for service. You don’t want to have a choppy or dropped call in the middle of your interview. Take the time to identify this location a few days prior to your interview. On the day of the interview make sure your phone is fully charged.
2) Dress: Be sure to dress professionally yet comfortably. If you dress in sweatpants, it will likely feel like the conversation is more casual. When we look good, we feel good. And when we feel good, we put our best foot forward. This doesn’t mean you need to put on heels or a turtleneck though. Make sure you are comfortable, otherwise you will not be able to focus on anything but your wardrobe issue and it will come across in your interview.
3) Supplies: Make sure you have the following supplies on hand to get you through the interview:
a. Water: You will be doing a lot of talking. Don’t let a dry mouth/throat hold you back from expressing what makes you such a great candidate for their company.
b. Pens & Paper: Have a notepad and a few pens with you so that you can write down interview questions to make sure that you stay on track.
c. Planner: In case they would like to schedule a second interview or start date for you at the conclusion of the call, you want to be sure you provide them with accurate information.
4) Research the Company: There is nothing interviewers look for more than your knowledge of their company. They want employees as well as advocates. Take an afternoon and browse their website, google them, ask around to see if any of your friends or family know anything about them or anyone that works there that might be helpful to refer during the interview to demonstrate your knowledge of the company. Make sure to print out the job description and your resume to use as a point of reference during the conversation as well. During your research, try to identify examples of how your skills and career trajectory align with the company’s mission.
5) Know yourself: Take a look at a few basic interview questions and really think about how you would answer them. What are your strengths and weaknesses? Why are you the best candidate for this position? What skills do you have? Write all of these down with bullet point answers under them and make sure you bring them as you are doing the interview to use as a point of reference.
6) Smile: Confidence is portrayed in a smile so make sure when you smile when you are talking. That confidence will spill over in your answers and give your interview a personality all its own.
Now you’re ready! Your career awaits you… Have fun with it!
Author: Lauren Blake, External Affairs Associate at Our Piece of the PieRead more
In the spirit of the New Year and resolutions that are to be made, below are some for OPP, as I see it:
- Continue to combat the drop-out crisis through raising awareness in ways that the over-aged, under-credited population can become contributing members of society
- Assist more OPP youth in graduating from high school
- Increase youth access to postsecondary education or vocational training
- Prepare more youth for working, assist in their job hunt and continue to support youth once they are working
- Encourage more youth to engage in OPP’s afterschool and summer programs
- Further prove program and service effectiveness through evaluation efforts
- Continue to develop our Pathways to Success model to serve more youth in more areas
We are so thrilled to start off the New Year with the support of so many great individuals and communities and hope to meet many more individuals who share our vision for 2013!
Happy New Year!
Written by Bob Rath, President & CEO of Our Piece of the PieRead more