Making Hope Happen for DaShawn
“When I was growing up, I wasn’t allowed to attend school,” recalls DaShawn G. “I grew up in a really strict household. My whole school experience was online. I didn’t have any social activities. I would hear kids playing outside my window, and when I turned 17, I decided to join them. I dropped out of online school and moved out on my own.”
Later, DaShawn decided to get a GED, and found Project WOW through a web search.
Project WOW (World of Work) is a program of JEVS Human Services that offers free skills training, job placement assistance, and GED® / high school equivalency test preparation for Philadelphia youth ages 18–24. Students select a hands-on job training track — either building trades or computer technology. Employment specialists help students find a job and begin a new career.
“The word I used was STUCK,” says DaShawn, recalling his first day at Project WOW, when he and fellow students were asked to explain why they were there. “I had been feeling like I was in pain — the kind of pain of getting up every day and going to a job I didn’t like. I came to Project WOW because I wanted to better myself.”
Taking the First Steps Toward Getting Unstuck
“The first couple of days, I had a lot of butterflies. I was around a lot of new people and felt a little uncomfortable at first. But we all soon figured out we had so much in common, it didn’t take long – just 2 or 3 days – for us to become like family.
“After that first week of team building, we got to choose whether we wanted to learn building trades or information technology. I chose IT because I was already interested in that.
“The first day in IT class, I knew I was going to like it right away. It was just really cool. The instructor, Mr. Adolphus, was great. At first, four months [the length of the program] seemed like it was going to be a long time, but when it was done I wished I had more time.”
DaShawn, far right, in the JEVS Project WOW Information Technology class. At left is IT instructor Adolphus Johnson.
Not Just Another GED Program
“I had looked at other GED programs, in fact I even tried one, but it was no good. It didn’t have the structure that Project WOW has. Project WOW is different because it has more professional development, and more caring instructors. They’re after you if you don’t show up — you get a text asking where you’re at. They really care.
“I used to say I wasn’t going to go back to school after I got my GED. I just thought I would get a better job. But then I met Ms. Shahidah.”
Shahidah Id-Din is Project WOW’s post-secondary bridging consultant. Her job is to help students with the transition from the program to post-secondary education. But Shahidah, a former high school teacher, prefers a different term for what she does. “When I first meet the students I introduce myself as a dream coach. I explain that I want them to dream big.”
“If you really do want to change your life, Project WOW is the way to go.”
Shahidah leads the students through group exercises and meets them one-on-one, where they learn to identify obstacles on their path to success. Then they can begin to discover their passion. “It allows them to change their mindset, which in turn helps them change their circumstances. When you begin to see yourself in a different way, things start to happen.”
That’s how it went for DaShawn.
“She kept telling me about schools, even though I did not think school was for me.”
And Shahidah was persistent: “I felt once he saw Hussian College, he would be able to picture himself going there.”
College Bound, with a Scholarship
Shahidah brought DaShawn to Hussian College and introduced him to Jarrett Bush, the Admissions Manager, who told DaShawn, “There’s a tangible need for diversity in technology. You come out of Project WOW, you come here, you’re already in gear.”
After talking with Shahidah and meeting Jarrett, DaShawn felt more confident about attending school.
Another important factor in DaShawn’s decision to attend college: a scholarship.
Scholarship funding is just one of the many perks for which Project WOW graduates are eligible. Others include paid internships and leadership development training. DaShawn is the fifth student to receive a scholarship so far this year.
DaShawn is digging in at Hussian, learning coding and game design basics while building a portfolio. “It’s not hard if you just pay attention and study,” he says.
Confident About the Future
DaShawn believes others who did not finish high school should try Project WOW: “How serious are you about doing better in life? If you want more than a GED, if you really do want to change your life, Project WOW is the way to go.”
He reflects on his own journey: “Before Project WOW, I didn’t really think about the future. Now I see myself in the future as a developer, and I feel confident about it.”
When asked what kind of developer, DaShawn does indeed sound confident: “Web developer, game developer, app developer — it doesn’t matter, I’m going to do all of it.”
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