In recent months, Southwestern Community College’s Educational Opportunities department has partnered with the Mother Town Healing Project through the Tribal Employment Rights Office (TERO) of the Qualla Boundary to provide employability skills training, career opportunities and additional support to tribal members recovering from addiction.
The Mother Town Healing Project is a TERO initiative aiming to provide recovery support, personal growth, skill-building opportunities and community to those in need. These efforts are centered around giving a second chance to tribal members recovering from addiction.
TERO partnered with SCC’s Human Resources Development program to provide workforce preparation classes that include numerous activities and chances for professional development.
All 10 students in the inaugural class are Cherokee residents who eagerly participated in all aspects of the program overseen by Deborah Kennedy, adjunct instructor for Educational Opportunities at SCC and Erin Taylor of the TERO office.
Most recently, students took part in the “New Year, New Me” program, during which each received a professional makeover at SCC’s Jackson Campus. Each Mother Town participant picked out some clothing from SCC’s professional clothes closet, and SCC cosmetology students gave the Mother Town participants new hairstyles.
“These students mean so much to me, just to see the growth and genuine love they have for each other,” Kennedy said. “The fact that we are integrating the two programs so seamlessly is incredible.”
A star student within the Mother Town Healing Project has been Jake Lambert, who expressed gratefulness for an opportunity for employment. He also appreciated that the program has allowed him to get back on his feet and make a better plan for his future.
“I was in a rut with addiction the past few years, really from the time I was a teenager,” said Lambert, who is 27. “Life was going nowhere, and I didn’t really have any connections to get anywhere in life … I finally decided to get into recovery and turn things around. Through recovery is where I heard about Mother Town.
“(Mother Town Instructors and organizers) have been flexible with me and let me attend the groups I go to for recovery,” Lambert added. “They helped me get my driver’s license back. They helped me with studying and took me to the Department of Motor Vehicles. They helped me apply for jobs outside the program. They helped with the little things that help you get back on your feet.”
When asked if he could give a struggling individual advice Lambert said: “Be committed. If it is something you seriously want, be committed, set your goals and go out and achieve them.”
This pilot group has seen major success. All 10 students received internship placements to gain work experience, and many are working to gain full-time positions.
SCC offers participants a no-cost employability lab, which teaches necessary skills to apply for jobs online, successfully interview and maintain employment. Similar labs are offered to the general public at locations in Jackson, Macon, Swain Counties and the Qualla Boundary.
Bianca Dardeen said Mother Town has given her “confidence, employability skills and a better understanding of how her surrounding community is loving and forgiving.”
Dardeen spoke most positively, however, about the friendships she has made through the program.
SCC and the Mother Town Healing Project are opening new doors for those in need, and – through this program – the students are showing the community that anything is possible with hard work.
For more information about SCC, visit www.southwesterncc.edu.