The 32 graduates of the October 18 commencement ceremony were given a mantra to recall their shared experience: “Once a CP man, always a CP man.”
Family, friends and supporters in attendance at Our Daily Bread Employment Center applauded the combined classes of graduates of CP (Christopher Place Employment Academy) for achieving the graduation requirement of sustaining one year of employment and moving from homelessness to independent living. Four of the men in the 18-month residential program now hold supervisor positions, with graduate Glen Smith of Class 57 hiring 11 fellow CP participants.“It’s an honor to have been a part of your journey,” said Program Director Darryl Green, who shared that he had once told a graduate who had been despondent that “I am not in the habit of giving up on a man.”
ODBEC Director Penny Lewis encouraged other men who were still enrolled in the program to “believe in the process because it works.”
Former ODBEC Director Sabree Akinyele traveled from Ohio to be in attendance to congratulate the last group of men with whom she had worked. James Wright of Class 61 sang “His Eye is on the Sparrow” and “Never Could Have Made It,” and said of his fellow graduates, “these people mean a lot to me.”
James Hutchins of Class 56 spoke of his personal evolution. He entered the program having “toxic” thoughts as he battled addiction. Now sober, he works at the Weinberg Housing and Resource Center, saying, “I see myself in the people I serve.”
Keynote speaker Anil Lewis, national director of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB,) told of growing up poor in a single-parent home, becoming blind from retinitis pigmentos, and being inaccurately diagnosed as intellectually disabled. Despite these obstacles to success, he is president of the NFB. “I am really defined and strengthened by the challenges I’ve faced,” he says. In closing, he stressed the importance of having a relationship with Christ, giving an acronym of self-defining principle: Courage, Honesty, Righteousness, Integrity, Strength and Tenacity.