OAKLAND (CBS 5) – Technology is the key to the future. And on that premise, this week’s Jefferson Award winner is helping low-income students build successful careers.
Donyella Lamons spent years working in retail and banking. But when she was laid off, she wanted a more stable career, so she studied information technology.
“It was all foreign to me,” she remembered.
Now, as a tech specialist for Alameda County, she supports her four children by building computers and trouble shooting problems.
“You have to chase what you want,” Lamons said. “You have to have faith and courage and belief in yourself.”
For her success, Lamons credits The Stride Center and its executive director, Barrie Hathaway. For the last eight years, Hathaway has led the Oakland-based Stride Center. It offers classes on five campuses that prepare low income students for financially successful careers in information technology.
“Usually students don’t say to me, ‘Thanks for those technical skills,’” Hathaway explained. “They say, ‘I have hope now. I have a direction that can sustain me and my family,’ and that’s really what it’s all about”
Hathaway says those who complete the program are 60% likely to get a job. It’s 75% if they get a second certification. Of the 450 students each year, about 75 get paid internships. The Stride Center itself offers internships through its store, ReliaTech, where interns repair and refurbish computers and supply tech support.
“If they have work experience through one of our businesses or one of our internships, then their likelihood of getting a job goes up to almost 90%,” Hathaway said proudly.
23-year-old Leemar Smith’s last job was in food preparation. But now, he’s about to graduate from The Stride Center to pursue a career in the video game industry.
“They really believe in me,” Smith said. “It feels so good to know the staff is behind you.”
CJ Johnson supervises three Stride Center alumni, including Lamons. He says its graduates are well-prepared for professional careers, thanks to Hathaway’s leadership.
“He has a good heart,” Johnson says of Hathaway. “He knows when people are in need. But instead of just a handout, (he) gives these people skills.”
Hathaway himself has spent 25 years as a high tech executive. But when he first started, he was a single father who received support from others.
Today, his mission is to give back: “I want to be that hand that says to our students, ‘If you want to do this, we’ll help you do it.’”
So for helping students make strides into high tech careers, this week’s Jefferson Award in the Bay Area goes to Barrie Hathaway.
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