“It’s never too early nor too late to turn a new page in your life.” This is the credo that the coordinators of the JEVS’ Orleans Technical College’s Project WOW live by. And they pass it on to their determined students whose skills and aptitude they harness to enter the professional world.
Gabriel Ramos is one of the outstanding students of Project WOW. During his early days at the program, he was honest to say that he was overwhelmed, especially as he needed to provide for his family with meager means and pursue his education at the same time. Ramos admitted that he felt beat and depressed because he was not that strong at will. He was bothered by thinking about how he can make it through the day, the week and the month.
Then came Project WOW into the picture. High school dropouts have found their refuge in Project WOW’s GED preparation and training program. They accept those who are aged 18 to 24. Participants of this project are facilitated with hands-on training in various building trades such as carpentry, electrical, weatherization, plumbing, and now Information Technology. Additionally, they are coached in workshops in the aspects of creating resumes and being fit for job interviews. They are also provided with the opportunities to study and take their GED test.
Ramos was motivated after joining Project WOW. To him, it opened the door to a life that goes beyond worrying about when his next paycheck would arrive. He commented that before taking part in Project WOW, he was simply maintaining his work, home, and work, home routine. “That’s no way to live”, according to Ramos.
Project WOW implements an integration process. Its design is mainly for its participants to go through a personalized experience. The staff takes time to pinpoint the interests of their individual students and devises the best plan for them to achieve success.
One of JEVS’ Project WOW’s youth coordinator is Sylvia Ocasio. She believes in seeing the best potential of their participants. Ocasio in fact guided Ramos through in studying electrical which happens to be his passion and in observing property management classes. All these while Ramos’ wife gave birth to their daughter, which he deemed to be a transformative experience.
Ramos and all the other staff and members of Project WOW have dubbed Ocasio as the “Mother Theresa” of JEV. It’s quite befitting of her, particularly as she adheres to her principle of seeing the potential in each of their students. “That’s just my way of life”, she stated.
Project WOW has come a long way since its inception 15 years ago. At that time, they only trained 3 students. Now, they have 54 enrollees coming from different locations all over Philadelphia. These young people talk about the struggles that beset their lives, including their fears. On the first two days, Ocasia orients them about a safe space wherein they could become productive. The connection that develops between them pushes them forward in tackling their training and ultimately get hold of their goals.
Ramos cites that grabbing the opportunity and taking the leap to allow things to happen. “You’ll never know how far you can go unless you take the first step”, he adds. He has now taken 2 GED tests and is currently being coached for the 2 more by Project WOW. Furthermore, the project continues to support him all the way to finding employment after his graduation.
“Everyone matters, and you can make it here in Project WOW no matter where you come from or what you might have been through”, said Ocasia, who is soon turning 60 years old.