Naim Mohammed smiled and mused how much life can change in 12 weeks.
In that short time, he’s become a certified project manager with sharpened skills in everything from carpentry and electrical work, to job interview preparation and financial literacy.
His next step is to serve a six-month apprenticeship, then go to work in a field where opportunities are plentiful in New Brunswick and beyond.
Through the New Brunswick Train-to-Hire Program, the Highland Park resident and the other 12 members of the graduating class are ready to embark on a bright future in any number of positions within the construction field.
“I’m so thankful for this program,” Mohammed said Tuesday at a graduation ceremony held on the Arthur Laurentis Theater stage at the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center. “I was working in carpentry, but there was no work, especially when the pandemic hit. I was fighting these charges I was dealing with. I’m on probation right now, and it’s hard to get a job with the background that I have. I was behind on rent and fines and everything in life was just going backward.”
“The goal was to put some hope in front of you guys,” Jingoli said at Tuesday’s graduation. “It’s really going to be up to you guys. You have to change the way you do a lot of things in order to have that hope happen for you.”
ut it can happen, and Curtis McNair said he is living proof.
Chef Curtis, as he has become known after serving hundreds of thousands of meals to the city’s food insecure at Elijah’s Promise, talked about how he turned his life around after he enrolled in the community kitchen’s training program.
“You can make it, believe me,” McNair said, turning to the graduates assembled on stage. “I’ve been through it. I’ve been in police chases, I’ve been to jail, I’ve been through everything. By the grace of God, I have 12 years clean. I haven’t touched a drug in 12 years.”
It’s no surprise the Train-to-Hire Program is supported by the city of New Brunswick, which has seen over the past few decades $5 billion worth of residential, retail, office, educational and health development, with more is on the way.
“Your transition from the classroom to the work site is taking place when we need you the most,” Mayor Jim Cahill said. “Together, we are watching the construction of the Jack and Sheryl Morris Cancer Center, a $750 million project right here in the heart of our city. This massive undertaking will rely on the skills of local residents like you who share in our commitment to defeat cancer once and for all.”
There was applause, hugs and kisses from friends and family of the 13 graduates – Tyler Bell, Kwame Bey, Elizabeth Diaz, Brian Gougeon, Zakee Harper, Mark Ladzinski, Herminio Landeo, Chaz Mathis, Aaron Norman, Marcellous Osbourne, Marc A. Rivera-Barillas, Kevin Thompson and Mohammed.
DEVCO President Chris Paladino, Executive Vice President Sarah Clarke and Vice President Merissa Buczny cheered on the new class, as did representatives from the courts, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office and others.
Apex President Lonell Jenkins reminded the Train-to-Hire graduates that there’s plenty of hard work ahead.
“Things are going to get tough,” he said. “You have to stay focused in your mind-set to have that grit to do the right thing every day.”
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