A portable electric bubble blowing machine sent scores of tiny bubbles wafting high into the air, the same direction as the spirits and life prospects of Westside Works graduates, following the program’s fourth annual graduation ceremony on July 20.
The bubbles and celebratory music not only helped to liven the commencement ceremony; they also helped to christen the opening of a new wing of the Westside Works facility, just off the historic intersection of Joseph E. Lowery and Joseph E. Boone in west Atlanta.
The new Westside Works building at 283 Joseph E. Lowery Blvd NW will now house the Integrity Transformations’ staff, program orientation sessions, case management and registration services.
“This is a big, big thing,” explained Jeff Harris, the president of Georgia Quality who presided over the ceremony. “It’s not the building, but what goes on inside the building. I’ve seen nothing but great things, especially out of my students.
To see the students going from being unemployable to being gainfully employed with benefits is just great,” he continued.
As a part of a partnership with the Metropolitan Atlanta YMCA, Westside Works and the Arthur Blank Foundation, Harris’s company provides technical assistance, consultation and training throughout metropolitan Atlanta. Georgia Quality’s role in the partnership is to provide CDA (Child Development Associate) credential training and prepare the candidates to take the requisite exam.
According to Harris, the students start out making $12 per hour during training, with the potential to make earn up to $16-$20 per hour once they’ve completed graduation, as the latest group of women graduates did.
Westside Works is a community-based workforce readiness program that creates employment opportunities and job training for residents of the Westside community, including Vine City, English Avenue, Castleberry Hill and other bordering neighborhoods.
Westside Works began four years ago when Home Depot founder and business mogul Arthur Blank, who also owns the Atlanta Falcons, built upon the 19-year success of the Integrity Transformations Community Development Corporation, the managing partner of Westside Works.
Since its inception in 2014, more than 836 residents have been trained by Westside Works, leading to more than 600 of them to being placed into full-time jobs with the economic impact nearly $17 million in combined wages earned.
Westside Works is a consortium of training partners whose combined instructions have helped inculcate Westside residents with both hard and soft job skills requisite to procure gainful employment and alter the trajectory of their lives.
Atlanta City Councilman Ivory Lee Young said this facility and program is helping to break the intergenerational cycle of impoverishment and set the foundation for creating a new and greater reality on Atlanta’s challenging west side.
“There is a no more important thing that we do than to educate those infants and toddlers and those young people and preparing them for life,” Young said. “Everything that they see and everything that you do for them helps to build a new nation over here on the west side of strong, vibrant people who will then grow up to be good mothers and good fathers and heads of households and create stability.
“Because when we don’t have that then we choose other alternatives that are not quite socially acceptable,” Young added. “That’s what West Works has done. It has created a new opportunity to choose from options that are a lot more palatable than those that lead to Right Street.”
All of the women are success stories, Harris added.
But there was one special case with the latest class. A woman who was homeless with four children who homeless and was living at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. He said Westside Works and partners were able to assist her with housing and she was able to graduate from the program.
“We’ve had six months of ups and down,” Harris said. “But this class had the highest scores through view testing than any class my company has ever had. Ever had. These ladies right here. I am so proud of them. They were very, very professional.”