by Alana J. Mauger
Montgomery County Community College celebrated the journey of 19 individuals who successfully completed the spring session of its innovative Partnership on Work Enrichment and Readiness (POWER) Program on April 22 during a ceremony at the Central Campus in Blue Bell.
The POWER Program helps individuals in mental health recovery to successfully develop and reach their education and career goals through a two-credit college course that focuses on time management, basic computer skills, study skills, public speaking, college success skills, career assessment, resume writing and professionalism.
For the graduates, the POWER Program gives them the confidence and skills they need to take the next steps in their lives. Several participants reflected on their journeys during the ceremony.
“The POWER Program has given me the tools to succeed and has improved my confidence by 110 percent,” said Qiani Bennett, who described her decade-long “tug-of-war” with depression. “I will never forget the role this class has played in my journey.”
A mother of three sons, Bennett is enrolled in MCCC’s Human Services program for the fall semester.
POWER participant Leya Ross, who spoke about her struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, will be joining Bennett in the Human Services program this fall.
“I will be a confident, productive and successful critical thinker. I will carry everything I have learned for the rest of my life,” she vowed.
Devon Heise was the final student to speak, sharing her emotional journey through years of drug abuse, incarceration, rehab and attempts at college.
“All of these failures piled up,” she said. “I somehow survived a grim reality that was so bleak.”
Going forward, Heise hopes to work with teenagers as a way to give back to those professionals who helped her.
“Instead of letting my past mistakes define me, they now influence who I am today,” she shared.
As part of the ceremony, 14 students were recognized for their achievements through the POWER Plus Program. These are former POWER participants who are now attending college classes or are currently employed as a result of completing the program.
“I felt my mind expanding and myself improving already during [new student] orientation,” said POWER Plus participant Bob Maddox, who is enjoying his Spanish classes at MCCC and hopes to one day become a translator.
Associate Professor of Psychology and POWER Program Director Diane Haar presented a POWER Advocate Award to Nancy Wieman, who is retiring from her post as Deputy Administrator for Montgomery County’s Mental Health Services after 28 years.
“Nancy has been at the forefront of the mental health recovery movement, and as a result of her work, the County’s program is not only a model for the state, but also for the country.”
In addition to Haar, the College’s POWER team consists of Program Coordinator/Advisor Lisa Barbiero, Community Liaison/Advisor Lori Schreiber, Peer Mentor George Rohde, Administrative Coordinator Dianne Johnson, Faculty Rose Regan, and Dean of Social Sciences Dr. Aaron Shatzman.
Montgomery County Community College and the Office of Montgomery County Behavioral Health/Development Disabilities provide funding for POWER and POWER Plus Programs, which also receive support from the Huston Foundation, Patricia Kind Foundation, the OddFellows of Philadelphia and other private foundations. However, the programs are in need of funding to continue next year.
Individuals interested in the POWER program may obtain a referral from their mental health or school provider or may self-refer. For more information, contact Community Liaison Lori Schreiber at 215-461-1151 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Program Advisor Lisa Barbiero at 215-641-6425 or email@example.com.
POWER and POWER Plus Program participants and staff at April 2014 graduation ceremony. Photo by Sandi Yanisko