A couple of weeks ago on May 18, I had the honor of speaking at a graduation ceremony held for all participants in a program called JobPath. I learned about the program when I made an appearance on AZPM. The focus of that week's show was on a JobPath report that showed the economic value the organization provides our community.
It's impressive. JobPath is a nonprofit founded in 1998 by the Pima County Interfaith Council and local business leaders to help people get the skills needed to land a living wage job in high-demand fiends. The study showed that 80 percent of graduates are still employed in Pima County and the economic impact from 2014-2015 comes to $34.3 million from graduates. Funding for JobPath comes from Pima County and the City of Tucson and is obviously a great investment.
To be honest, however, I wasn't fully convinced of that until I sat on the stage waiting to speak. Several students took turns at the podium telling their stories—how they had difficulty attending school for different reasons, how they came to the United States for an education or a better life, or how they found themselves in low wage jobs until they came in contact with JobPath and entered training programs at places like Pima Community College. The evening at Hotel Tucson, sponsored by Bombardier, Cushman & Wakefield / PICOR, Pima Community College and Vantage West Credit Union, also brought together alumni who shared their stories about how JobPath helped them gain better employment and even furthered their education enough that they were now on their way to getting a degree at the UA with next steps a masters and a PhD.
When I spoke at the graduation, I explained that I realized there was an important connection to JobPath and the Tucson Weekly. Which is why I think you should be celebrating these JobPath graduates, too. We depend on mom and pop businesses to support our newspapers as advertisers—we have other advertisers, sure, but the bulk and stalwart supporters are often mom and pop shops. That's why we need these graduates to take on these jobs in Tucson—they are backbone of our area's economy.
I also shared with them that my son and I have a tradition we call payday dinner—usually one payday a month we eat out at a locally owned restaurant. My goal isn't just to support a local business, but we also do this to broaden my son's tastes so he can have the opportunity to try new foods. I certainly couldn't do this tradition without the mom and pops who help support me. I thanked the graduates. I thanked them for figuring out that they needed a program like JobPath to get back to school and improve their lives.
They improve their lives, and at the same time they improve our community. I can't think of a better relationship or tradition—other than payday dinner.
— Mari Herreras, firstname.lastname@example.org