NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) - What looks like graduation is called "continuation" at UpRise Nashville.
The program's fifth-ever class has just completed six weeks of career training, learning how to become an employee who businesses want to hire.
Carole Peterson, a former federal prosecutor, helped create UpRise Nashville two years ago as a ministry inside West End Community Church.
"Our goal isn't just to give them a job," said Peterson. "Our goal is to build community and build a support system."
Students are called "Leaders" at UpRise, because they lead their own change.
Antika Brodie will soon be one of them. The Nashville native and mother of two young sons is preparing for a new career in IT, learning power point, public speaking, even conflict resolution. She'll receive coaching and career assessment and meet with a coach once a month in person and on the phone.
She said the built-in support system of social workers, counselors and mentors is what keeps her moving forward.
"Their expectations are high, but their support is higher," said Brodie. "I don't feel like I’m going to encounter anything that will defeat me anymore. I feel I can handle it."
Peterson said training camp serves as a screening process to gauge each student's commitment.
"It costs us $10,000-$15,000 per student to graduate through this program," Peterson said. "But these students are coming out as graduates, already earning $23,000 more per year than before they started. So, they are more than making that money back in their first year of work. We say, 'we don't look for people who need help, we look for people who want help.’”
Leaders, who are paid a stipend to participate, can be certified in their new careers within a month of training camp, up to seven months depending on the career track, which include Certified Medical Assistant, Information Technology, Medical Billing and Coding, CDL: Commercial Driver’s License, Electrical Apprenticeships and more.
UpRise just completed a retention study of our first class, which graduated in October 2018.
Peterson said when UpRise started, 72% received SNAP, or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, commonly known as food stamps.
"One year later, just 9% are receiving food stamps, 55% received a government housing subsidy and today just 27% receive a housing subsidy,” said Peterson.
Uprise Nashville is looking for its next class. To apply, call or text 615-216-0968 or visit the website. The ministry is also seeking sponsors, mentors, and donors.