“I am excited; it is amazing being at this point in my life.”
Terri Thomas, 20, has learned how to push through difficult days. She didn’t always feel that determined. In her senior year at a high school in West Philadelphia, Terri became pregnant, habitually missed classes and found it difficult to concentrate on school. “I used to not be motivated to go to school at all,” she said.
Terri had a life changing experience in November 2012 when she was accepted in the Opportunities Industrial Center Career Academic Development Institute (OIC-CADI) in Philadelphia. Principal Dr. Pamela Thomas, her staff and the Communities in Schools of Philadelphia (CIS of Philadelphia) ELECT (Education Leading to Employment and Career Training) Site Coordinators Sharon Woods and Andragina Johnson, helped Terri get back on track.
CIS of Philadelphia is contracted by the School District of Philadelphia to implement the Pennsylvania statewide initiative for young parents. ELECT assists pregnant and/or parenting female and male students in the completion of their high school education and aids them with their transition into self-sufficiency.
“There were times during the program that I would vent, but I always got support from Ms. Woods and Ms. Johnson.” Terri said. “They taught me how let go of the negative energy and to focus on my goal to graduate.” Asked about Terri’s determination, CIS of Philadelphia’s veteran ELECT site coordinator of seven years Andragina Johnson commented, “She is extremely motivated. Once she gets something set in her mind, Terri is a go getter.” Terri now, in turn, has several peers who look to her for advice.
Career preparation is one of ELECT’s components. Terri obtained a job interview in July 2012 and Ms. Woods, referred her to The Career Wardrobe through the CIS of Philadelphia agency membership. Career Wardrobe helps to boost confidence, gives women hope, and a new start in life by providing interview suits, work attire and education services. There, Terri was outfitted free-of-charge with a professional suit and shoes at a dressing appointment with a professional shopper.
Ms. Woods provided a follow up after Terri completed her visit and not only cited Terri’s “tenacity” but also said, “I am grateful for this [experience] because towards the end of the school year, Terri was beginning to show signs of being down, feeling defeated,” she said. “I really believe being outfitted and catered to, encouraged and helped to motivate her. There is no doubt that how we look affects how we feel and what we wear influences how we act and increases confidence.”
Now the proud mother of two year-old beautiful Makiyah is glad that she never gave up. She attributes all her success to the guidance she received from OIC-CADI school staff and her CIS of Philadelphia ELECT site coordinators; as well as the continual support with child care that her mother and family provided. Terri met her graduation requirements from OIC-CADI on January 17, 2014 and is now looking forward to walking with her class at graduation this June. “I am so excited; it is amazing being at this point in my life,” Terri said.
When asked what’s next after graduation, Terri replied, “At first I was just going to go to a technical school, now I want to go to community college. I have already started filling out college applications.” Terri indicated that she’s leaning towards taking psychology and business courses. “Eventually I would like to own a business,” she said.
Terri’s CIS of Philadelphia ELECT Site Coordinator will continue to support her through the next few months as a participant in the ELECT Transition Component, which provides 120 days of additional program support after graduation.