On Wednesday, July 18th First Step staff and supporters gathered with the family and friends of graduates to celebrate the graduation of classes 116 and 117 – and to acknowledge the incredible effort, perseverance, and sacrifice it took for graduates to make it to this milestone.
Everyone in attendance was treated to inspiring speeches from Andrew Barnes, the First Step Computer Instructor, and Austin Fremont, one of First Step’s most amazing volunteers. Andrew praised the graduates for their hard fought accomplishments and stressed the importance of maintaining the mindset that allowed them to complete First Step by setting new expectations for themselves that build on their achievements. Recognizing that so many First Step graduates are mothers and the powerful impact of a mother’s advice, Austin shared a touching story about how her own mother gave her rules to live by that still guide her today and which we can all benefit from – show up, pay attention, tell the truth, try your best, and do not get too attached to the outcome.
Of course, the highlight of every First Step graduation is hearing directly from the graduates themselves. Although we cannot accurately capture the emotion and the sincerity of the feelings expressed, here is some of what was said by the many graduates through the smiles and the tears in their own words:
"In First Step I learned the most about myself, my truest self."
"First Step staff helped me through a rough time, they opened a door I didn’t know was there. I tell everyone I meet about First Step!"
"There were times when I wanted to give up, but you wouldn’t let me – the warmth was amazing."
"First Step was like a family to me. They taught me to be confident in myself. I never thought at my age that I could get a certificate, but ‘I can’t’ is no longer part of me. Today I can hold my head high."
"I’ve been working with First Step and the Coalition since I graduated, but even if I wasn’t I would volunteer my time because you have a piece of my heart forever."
"I hate to leave because I love you all…I didn’t fully know why I was coming before I got here, but I came anyway and I got it!"
"When I came here I knew I was home. We did it!"
Guest speaker and volunteer, Austin Fremont
A crowd of family and friends cheer for the graduates.
A group of graduates and First Step staff.
More graduates excited for their night.
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Life-long friendships are often started through First Step.