“Personal initiative is key, but no one — despite persistent myths about bootstrapping and self-made men — does it alone. People built pathways to the middle class by pooling money, watching each others’ kids, supporting each others’ businesses, and recommending each other for jobs. This is social capital in action,” said family activist Mia Birdsong.

At the West Michigan Center for Arts + Technology (WMCAT), we are building social


capital with families as they pursue income security through career training. Our nonprofit partners and local employers are part of that rich social capital lifting up adults on their pathways to new, living-wage careers.

Adults like Jolie.

Jolie with her husband, Martin and baby Amelia

Jolie is a student in WMCAT’s Adult Career Training Program, studying to be a pharmacy technician – a new career that will provide economic stability for her family. As a refugee, she is an English as a Second Language (ESL) student with the Literacy Center of West Michigan; and she is a mother, a wife, and a friend. In other words, she is uniquely Jolie. And WMCAT is partnering with the Literacy Center to increase her network of support.

This summer Jolie and three fellow ESL learners worked with their Literacy Center coach, preparing specifically for WMCAT’s pharmacy technician career training class. They joined 31 other under-and-unemployed adults in WMCAT’s nationally-recognized Adult Career Training Program in September.

Jolie with her ESL tutor, Vicki

“This program makes me stronger,” Jolie said. “I wanted to quit on the first day … but Jamon (WMCAT program director) told me, ‘If today is too hard, tomorrow will be better.’”

We make sure she and her fellow students have access to mentors, a literacy coach, an on-site therapist, employers, and career instructors.

Now, fully immersed in her training at WMCAT, Jolie still meets regularly with her literacy coach to ensure she is successful in preparing for her

Jolie studying in WMCAT’s Pharmacy Technician class

new career and a future of economic security for her family.

“I want to get a better job and then go back to school to be a pharmacist,” said Jolie. “If it gets too hard, I am going to take it. Makes me stronger, you don’t have to quit.”

We look forward to celebrating new beginnings at graduation this June as the Class of 2020 walks across state, sharing their success and leading their families to income security through career training at WMCAT.