Two graduates of the Christian Women's Job Corps are returning the favor to the organization this semester by being the first graduates to return as teachers.
"When I was going through the program, they talked about how volunteering was good for you and good for your résumé," said Ashley Willis, one the new teachers. "I loved this place and the teachers and my classmates."
The organization teaches women at risk of poverty computer skills, boundaries, job training, Bible education, interview skills, resume writing and how to dress professionally. Some of the women have never had a job or wish to make themselves more marketable.
This semester, 67 women enrolled. In the fall, 62 percent of graduates found jobs while they were still in the program or soon after, said Kathy Gohmert, executive director of the organization. Five years ago, 50 enrolled and 25 graduated. Now the organization boasts a more than 60 percent graduation rate.
"These women are competing with women with college degrees," Mrs. Gohmert said.
Mrs. Willis, 27, took classes last January, almost a year ago.
She got her GED her junior year and went to college the next year, but she dropped out and decided to go into the workforce instead.
Now she's thinking of enrolling in college again to study criminal justice.
"I felt that (the job corps) had something I needed. I felt uneducated about computers, and I was still unsure if I wanted to go to school."
She started teaching classes in January and returned for a second semester.
The other teacher who graduated from the program is Eugenia Arenivas, who graduated last fall. She teaches a new class, the bilingual pilot class. Some of the harder concepts she translates in Spanish and English, she said.
Some women have been giving to others and haven't had a chance for several years to focus on their own goals, Mrs. Arenivas said.
"A lot of women don't get their ‘me' time," she said. "Not that many women focus on themselves or have a chance to learn about themselves."
Christian Women's Job Corps began in 1998. The 501c3 doesn't receive government funding, but donors provide meals, training materials, computers, gas and childcare assistance.
The only cost to the students is a small fee for a workbook.
During the mock interview process, actual employers from the area come and give the women tips on interviewing. Many of the places where the women are hired are ones that have involvement with the organization.