After three years of serving the Cities of Hampton and Newport News Social Service departments the Thomas Nelson EleVAte SNAP Employment and Training Pilot Program (SNAP) concluded in late 2018 with its largest graduating cohort.
SNAP was a three-year grant from the United States Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service awarded to 10 states. The largest award went to the Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS), with Virginia's Community Colleges (VCCS) as the primary official sub-recipient.
Thomas Nelson was among seven VCCS schools offering the employment and training program. SNAP has changed the lives of more than 200 men and women from Hampton and Newport News Social Services departments.
The December graduation boasted a cohort of 71 students earning credentials in certified medical administrative assistant (CMAA), commercial driver’s license (CDL), electrical, heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC), A+ certified technician or welding.
The room was filled with family, friends and partners who have supported the program since the beginning, including the keynote speaker, former SNAP E&T Director Dr. Val Livingston, Admissions Director of Norfolk State University's Master of Social Work Program.
Livingston began by addressing the obstacles students faced during the program, many she was very familiar with as former director. Many of the major obstacles including loss of parents and children, evictions, health issues and childbirth made her marvel at the tenacity of her students and their desire to push forward and complete the program.
“It made me wonder what was the characteristic that made you push and follow through,” stated Livingston, who then shared the definition of grit as defined by Angela Duckworth, “perseverance and passion for long-term goals.”
“That’s what I thought, that maybe grit is what you have. This is what’s in the background… grit means you aren’t going to lose focus; you are going to complete your goal. It may not happen right away, it may take 5-10 years. I don’t want you to be disillusioned or disappointed. Change your expectations and create a strategy to get what you need. If you continue your path you will accomplish your goal. Don’t give into fear of failure,” stated Livingston.
As the program closed Dr. Susan English, vice president for Academic Affairs and Workforce Development at Thomas Nelson, congratulated the students on all their accomplishments.
“No one can take away what you have earned here today. This is what Thomas Nelson is all about. We are family and we are proud to be a part of your story.”