Urban Outreach Initiative. “The Pursuit of Happiness: Cory’s Version”

By  Nancy Servoss, UA Volunteer 

Cory sat in the Urban Alliance office, looking like he didn’t have a care in the world. For the next hour I listened as he dispelled my thinking. Cory, I found out, had recently left a dead-end comfort zone because he cares so deeply about being sober and watching his little boy grow up.  

Several months earlier, he was at the end of the proverbial rope and almost didn’t make it into the Momentum office. The church-like setting with the steel framed side door didn’t exactly lure him in. “I almost walked away,” he admitted. However, sheer desperation propelled him into what he perceived as an ominous setting and that’s when things changed. Quickly. Within two weeks of starting Momentum, he sensed it was the right place for him. Deep down, he knew he had to bring hidden personal issues to the front and deal with them. And so he did.    

Cory has worked to overcome many barriers. With only a bit of hesitation, he told me about two felony convictions and a history of drug use. Poor choices took him down some dark roads. During the six-week Momentum program, he faced his past and slowly recognized future possibilities. This was especially difficult because, right after he started, his son’s mom died. Almost overnight, Cory became a full-time dad to three-year old Max.  

Cory smirked as he recalled the plea to “trust the process,” a phrase he heard frequently during his time with Momentum. He did learn to trust, but it came in small waves, as he realized his own resiliency within an environment that included people he respected, and trusted.

After completing the Momentum program last spring, Cory forged on and successfully finished a three-week Warehouse Management and Inventory Control Academy. He then secured a full time job at Sigma, a home, and a car. As we ended our time together, Cory told me, “Without Momentum, I may not have my son and I may not have landed in a good place. The universe came together on this one.”  

Urban Alliance Technical Center and Academies

2018 brought four academies, all offered in partnership with Kalamazoo Valley Community College, to the Urban Alliance Technical Center (UATC). Academies included Warehouse Management and Inventory Control, Production Technology, Manufacturing and Material Handling, and Computer Numerical Control (CNC). Western Michigan University also partnered with the Warehouse Management and Inventory Control Academy. Within a few weeks of the October Manufacturing and Material Handling Academy’s completion, all eight graduates were gainfully employed.

Through the generous donation of the Stryker-Johnston Foundation, we were able to outfit our technical lab with two new Computer Numerical Control machining centers, three forklifts, a coordinated measurement machine and a production line. Our current cohort of twelve CNC students are the first to be trained on the CNC machining centers. Join us for their graduation at the KVCC Groves Center on January 17th from 6-7:30 p.m. In addition, we are very pleased to share that we have been certified to be a member of the Haas Technical Education Center group.

Momentum Business Network Employer Spotlight: Sigma Machine

Here’s what Sigma had to say about working with Urban Alliance,

Sigma Machine is a family owned and locally operated manufacturer that specializes in the Electric Vehicle (EV) industry. We’ve been in business in Kalamazoo since 1955.

Sigma has partnered with Momentum since the very first graduating class. For us it just makes sense. We get to talk to potential employees who have gone through the program and have shown that they can overcome challenges in their lives. I know that Momentum grads have the “soft skills” that will help them be successful — things like good attendance, motivation and responsibility.  Those are things that I can’t train; people either value those things, or they don’t. To be honest, the folks that come through Momentum are usually my best employees. They know how hard they worked to get the job, and they are willing to work just as hard to keep it.

Now that Momentum is offering the academies, the people who come through have those “extra” skills that put them a step above my other new hires. They know what working in a manufacturing plant is going to be like. They WANT this kind of work and they are excited to be given a chance to be successful. Momentum is good for our company (finding new employees), it is good for our employees (helps them stay on the path to success) and it is good for the community.’ – Julie Allen, Sigma Human Resources.

A Note from Luke Kujacznski, Urban Alliance Executive Director

“Each year I am in awe with what can be accomplished through love, and this year is no exception. The work that was accomplished by this community makes me incredibly proud and hopeful. There were significant breakthroughs, there were challenges, but best of all, hope gained a foothold. Hope that together Kalamazoo can be a place where everyone can be successful, hope that systems are changing, and hope that love will prevail. As we wrap up 2018, and look forward to 2019, I see a lot of work to be done. However, we are not alone. The alliance of individuals working together is moving beyond an organization and into a movement seeking love and justice. Together we will create a community where every individual is valued.”

Momentum Urban Employment Initiative

The Momentum Urban Employment Initiative, our most well-known initiative, continues to be a proven success. To date, 90% of our graduates have gone on to gain employment, with 74% maintaining employment beyond 90 days. 2018 was therefore focused on laying the groundwork for an expansion of Momentum from serving two core urban neighborhoods to serving three. Adding a third site in 2019 will allow us to run three cohorts of Momentum simultaneously, thereby increasing the number of students served from 120 per year to 180. 

Northside home to new hub for ‘bundled’ support to help residents create sustainable financial lives

Northside home to new hub for ‘bundled’ support to help residents create sustainable financial lives