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$1M Grant from Truist Foundation Helps Birmingham Residents With Career Training

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Shakita Rivers shares how STRIVE Birmingham helped develop a career path for her to become a registered nurse. (Ryan Michaels, For The Birmingham Times)

By Ryan Michaels

The Birmingham Times

Previously a stay-at-home mother of two, Shakita Rivers said she wanted to do more than rely on her husband working full-time.

“I looked into going back to school to become a registered nurse, but that would require me to take out loans, and the last thing I wanted was to add more debt,” she said.

Instead, Rivers, 29, found STRIVE Birmingham, the local site of a national nonprofit which provides free job training and career support services for people looking for quality employment.

Rivers, who is set to graduate from STRIVE’s pilot cohort on Friday along with nine others, said she was first drawn to STRIVE because it was free but found she was able to develop her five-year plan to start as a certified administrative assistant and work her way up to becoming a registered nurse.

“I am thankful that I learned to trust myself, my decisions that I made and to stay confident in building the life I want for myself, starting once I get my certification in my hand” next Thursday, Rivers said.

In addition to this week’s graduating class, STRIVE Birmingham received a $1 million grant from the North Carolina-based Truist Foundation to help fully launch the workforce development nonprofit’s job training program.

Quiwintre Frye, executive director of STRIVE Birmingham, said the organization has focused on placing students in the health care industry and one student has already started a new job at Ascension St. Vincent’s hospital system in the city.

“I’m so proud of what we’re building here together, for what’s possible for the people of Birmingham, ready to access the stability and positive change that a thriving career can provide for themselves and their families,” Frye said.

Next month, STRIVE is expected to begin its first full cohort. Over time, its expects to serve 100 students annually with onramps to good jobs that help lead to family-sustaining careers.

Frye said STRIVE wants to make sure “that everyone can achieve upward mobility and financial empowerment for themselves and their families. To do this, STRIVE brings programs that are dedicated to populations that are underserved, underemployed and unsure of the blueprint for job opportunities. Simply put, students come to us from all backgrounds,” she said.

Philip Weinberg, president and CEO of STRIVE, says he was humbled by the success of the company’s program. (Ryan Michaels, For The Birmingham Times)

Philip Weinberg, president and CEO of STRIVE, who was in attendance, said about a year and a half ago he was in Birmingham to discuss bringing the program to Birmingham’s Woodlawn community.

“To come back in a classroom today and hear our very first ever STRIVE Birmingham graduating cohort share about their own aspirations and their own journeys, is truly humbling and truly remarkable and gives us all tremendous pride,” Weinberg said.

Burton McDonald, Alabama regional president for the Truist Foundation, said the work of organizations like STRIVE is critical to Birmingham.

“We cannot stress enough the importance of breaking down those barriers and providing individuals with the opportunity to reach their full potential and in turn, help our community to reach its full potential as well,” McDonald said.

Kim Moore-Wright, head of enterprise diversity at Truist Financial Corporation, said the investment is going to help build career pathways for individuals who face barriers to employment in Birmingham and beyond.”

Lynette Bell, president of the Truist Foundation, said that STRIVE’s programs are more than job training.

“It really was about [the students] taking care of themselves mentally, being resilient, really tapping into their full potential to be developed…” she said. “not just for themselves, but for future generations”