Andre GraduationAndre's Graduation, with CaRE StaffI'm Andre' Smith and I'm 28 years old. I am a veteran and served two years in the United States Air Force. Upon my discharge, I moved back home to my wife and family in Virginia. Then my wife and I moved to Louisiana. We later got divorced while living in Louisiana. I moved to Kansas after my divorce to try something new-my brother was living in the area. Things didn't work out.

I was struggling with depression and some other problems. When I went to the hospital, they recommended I come to Topeka to check out the Colmery-O'Neill VA hospital and get services that they provide for homeless veterans. I had nowhere else to go and Topeka Rescue Mission Ministries was suggested to me. I checked it out, came right in and registered as a guest. I had only been here for four days, when my Advocate at the time, Chris Penny, suggested the CaRE (Career Readiness Education) program. Knowing that I was new in town and didn't know much about the area-CaRE was a great option for me. 

That first day I was a total unknown to the CaRE staff-they didn't know anything about me. After spending a little time in class, I thought the class was great. It taught me a lot about Topeka, helped me learn about resources that I wasn't aware of and I got to meet some wonderful people who were also in the class. Mostly, CaRE helped me build a TON of confidence again in myself and my abilities. Through class I made some great friends that will hopefully last me the rest of my life.

One of the objectives in this class is getting your resume out on and other job search websites. When I completed that task, the American Cable and Telephone Company (ACT) sent me an email, after seeing my resume, and asked if I was interested in working with them. I did the interview process and started working with them in May. I've now been working for more than eight months with them. I really like the independence and problem solving challenges I have while working for this Andre Smithcompany. I'm a guest at TRM Ministries, saving up money and carefully planning for my next steps. I'm excited about what 2018 will bring.

The CaRE Program was one of the greatest programs I've been in. It taught me a lot about who I am as a person and rekindled my confidence. Before enlisting in the Air Force, I was able to score a 98 on the entry test (ASVAB). Because of that score, I became an avionics specialist and was able to get some advanced training. I repaired and tested the navigation, radio and other systems for A-10s, F-15s, and U-2s. Good communications and GPS for those pilots and crew were critical for both their safety and ability to complete their missions. In the past, I could always learn quickly when I applied myself and was interested in something. Depression was making that difficult for me, but I've regained that ability now.

I think the best part about CaRE, was the boost to my self-confidence. Since my divorce and homeless adventure started, I felt like I couldn't do anything and I just didn't have it in me anymore. I felt like all the things I had done in my past and my past jobs, all those skills weren't going to get me anywhere. I felt mired in my current situation and depression was crippling me. I was really struggling. In CaRE they kept pointing out that I had all this experience and encouraged me to use it. When things came up and I was struggling, they were there for me and helped me get through it. They believed in me and helped me to believe in myself. They said, "Keep trying, keep pushing, it'll come. Keep praying, a great job will come." Then ACT sent me an email asking me to interview.

I didn't know anything about ACT, so I did some research, talked to them and figured out who they were. After I did, I knew it was the perfect job for me. That was a resource that I would have never thought about. It was the CaRE team that suggested CaRE gave me that confidence to put myself out there and it worked!

Some of the people I've met through CaRE have helped keep me accountable to myself. They'll see me walking in the building and ask how's work going? Or if I'm not at work, they'll say you're not at work today, what's going on? Are you sick? It has made all the difference knowing someone really cares about me, for me and about my future.

We called our CaRE class the "Great 8." That came from, about the time of our graduation, we had 8 students left in our class. So we were like, "hey, we're the great 8, we're going to finish this class together." One of the girls suggested we get shirts made. She said, "Its good to remember a time that we spent 3 months of our lives together-why not get something that kinda keeps us united and motivated as we keep learning about life and moving forward?"

So yeah, the Great 8. We're all doing different things now. One person in our class was going to start her own business-others had different dream jobs. I've thought about moving back to Virginia to be closer to family. I'm really enjoying this job and making it on my own two feet is important to me. Everything was spiraling down for me when I came here. Now, I KNOW, wherever I go, I'll do well. I'm grateful to the CaRE team and TRM Ministries. It has made all the difference in my life that people here really care.

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