by Diane VanDyke
Twenty-eight students graduated from the College’s Partnership on Work Enrichment and Readiness (POWER) Program on Dec. 14 during a ceremony held at Central Campus in Blue Bell.
As part of the ceremony, 10 additional students were recognized for their achievements through the POWER Plus Program. These students are attending college classes, enrolled in degree programs or are currently employed as a result of their participation in the POWER Program.
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. With the assistance of an individual advisor, participants develop a personalized education and/or career plan.
Classes, held twice per week, focus on the topics of time management, study skills, public speaking, college success skills, career assessment, resume writing and professionalism. The classes provide information about financial aid, disability services and college resources.
“This is the 10th graduation ceremony since the POWER Program was established in 2006,” said Dr. Karen A. Stout, College President. “Since it started, more than 250 students have graduated, and this is the largest graduating class we ever had. This program is an essential part of the student success initiative of the College.”
Several graduating students spoke about their recovery journeys during the ceremony, including Rodger Accoo, who described how he finished his high school education, overcame his drug addiction and now plans to take courses so he can work in the computer field.
“I wish my dad who passed away could see me now and see how I have turned my life around,” he said. “This [graduation] is just the beginning of a brighter future.”
“Our mission is to provide a person in recovery with the skills to move on in their education and careers,” said Diane Haar, POWER Program Director and Associate Professor of Human Services and Psychology. “We teach them that a label doesn’t define who they are—and isn’t that what we all want?”
Several students plan to enroll in Montgomery County’s Certified Peer Specialist Program, so they can learn to help other people who face mental challenges and addictions find the road to recovery.
POWER Plus students praised the program for helping them meet their goals.
“So much can be said about the Power Plus Program,” said student Kelly Davis. “To keep it short, it is all about support, support and support.”
POWER graduate Annie DeMedio, who is taking courses at the College to earn her associate’s degree in Human Services, presented the POWER Advocate Award to Lucy Hoy because she is a “true inspiration to the participants of the program.” Ms. Hoy is Clinical Supervisor of the IOP Program at Central Montgomery MH/MR Center in Norristown.
Montgomery County Community College and the Office of Montgomery County Behavioral Health/Development Disabilities provide funding for POWER and POWER Plus Programs, which also receives support from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and other donations.