CEI Blog: Overcoming Barriers to Success

I believe that all Arkansans should be afforded the chance to pursue happiness and prosper regardless of their environment or background.

When Arkansans are given the opportunity to take advantage of the good-paying job opportunities that are increasingly available, they can provide for themselves, their families, and help build our communities. As you know, I use my Community Empowerment Initiative (CEI) and my CEI Blog to promote aspiration and engage solutions that make our communities stronger. That’s why, this month, I’m recognizing Goodwill Industries of Arkansas.

Goodwill does so much more than sell donated clothing and household items. When you donate to or shop at Goodwill, you help fund their mission of changing lives through education, training, and employment. In the fiscal year ending June 30, 2018, Goodwill placed 6,375 people into employment in Arkansas with an average wage of $10.89. Goodwill provided additional services to 19,247 Arkansans during that same time. All Arkansans, regardless of income, education, or criminal background can receive free assistance with their job search, resume building, and interview skill development at the Goodwill Career Training Center in Little Rock. 

When U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Dr. Ben Carson came to central Arkansas in May of this year, we visited Goodwill’s training facilities. We sat down with Goodwill’s exceptional leadership and took a tour, seeing their operations firsthand.

Pictured: Brian Marsh, President and Chief Executive Officer of Goodwill Industries of Arkansas, showing Secretary Carson and me Goodwill’s training facility where we met with students at their Excel Center. 

We saw the Excel Center at Goodwill, which is the first adult high school in Arkansas. The tuition-free school provides students aged 19 and older with a second chance to earn a high school diploma, and is geared toward working adults. In particular, flexible and accelerated class schedules, free drop-in childcare, and transportation assistance are available to each student. Life coaches are assigned to every student to ensure that any barriers to success can be overcome. Support from resources like life coaches are invaluable as they played an essential role in my growth as a student. 

Another impressive aspect of Goodwill is their prison reentry program. Individuals participating in the Goodwill program have a recidivism rate of less than 10 percent compared to the national rate of around 50 percent. This program assists individuals with a history of criminal convictions and incarceration as they transition into their communities and find a better quality of life. This enables people to overcome barriers to successful employment through training and education. Goodwill delivers a superior level of expertise in recruiting, screening, and preparing jobseekers, and as a result, employers receive the most qualified and capable candidates. 

It’s obvious through the results we’ve seen that Goodwill is more than your neighborhood retail store and a place to drop off donations. This is an organization that cares deeply about giving back and empowering communities, and one that cares about providing Arkansans an opportunity to succeed, regardless of their pasts and circumstances. That’s why I’m so proud to recognize them this month. At Goodwill the motto is “Donate, Shop, and Change a Life!” When organizations like Goodwill flourish in our state, Arkansans and our communities are better off.

Check them out at goodwillar.org.

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