POWER Program Holds Graduation Ceremony

by Diane VanDyke

Family and friends applauded as 16 students graduated from Montgomery County Community College’s Partnership on Work Enrichment and Readiness (POWER) Program on May 3 during a ceremony held 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. 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.

As part of the ceremony, 14 students were recognized for their achievements through the POWER Plus Program. These students are attending college classes, enrolled in degree programs or currently employed as a result of their participation in the POWER Program, which gave them the chance they needed to turn around their lives.

“When you think about Montgomery County Community College, you think of opportunity and empowerment—it’s what Montgomery County Community College is all about,” said guest speaker Josh D. Shapiro, chairperson of the Montgomery County Commissioners, adding that investing in the College, is an investment in all students and in the future.

During the ceremony, POWER Program Director Diane Haar presented the POWER Advocate Award to Laura Kind McKenna of the van Ameringen Foundation in recognition of the support of the van Ameringen and Patricia Kind Family foundations.

The keynote speaker and POWER Program alumnus, John Brooks, spoke about his life’s journey, describing the challenges of living with Bipolar Disorder and alcohol addiction.

“The POWER Program gave me the tools and confidence to be sane, sober and productive,” he said. “I was able to find my true abilities and give back to others.”

Today, Brooks is a certified peer specialist/forensics advocate for Hopeworx Inc. in Norristown. He is proud of his achievements and the initials behind his name on his business card, representing his education and training.

Three other POWER graduates shared their experiences, accomplishments and words of encouragement to their classmates, including high school student Kimani Shaw.

Shaw is a graduate of the POWER-TAY program—a program for transitional age youth, ages 16 through 28. He spoke about the challenges he faced after his mother and grandmother died when he was only 12 years old. After receiving help at Green Tree High School and enrolling in the POWER-TAY program, he is now able to finish high school and plan for his future.

“Never give up, never give up. Your hopes and dreams are only one knock away from reality,” he said.

Shaw plans to take a course at the College, enroll in the Power Plus program and eventually open his own autobody shop

The Power Program team includes Director/Faculty Diane Haar, Community Liaison/Faculty Lori Schreiber, Student Advisor/Faculty Lisa Barbiero, Faculty Byron Goldstein, Faculty Donna Vanderwyst, Peer Mentor Kelly Davis, Administrative Coordinator B. Dianne Johnson 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 receives support from the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) and other private foundations.

POWER and POWER Plus students, their advocates, and special guests pose for a group photo following the May 3 graduation ceremony. Photo by John Welsh

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