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Posted on May 11th, 2018 in Success Story Tags:

In 2012, Deandre Lander was a senior in high school who was invested in taking next steps in his career as he participated in Indianapolis’ J. Everett Light Career Center, where he earned his welding certification. However, for personal reasons, he did not end up graduating from high school. This certification got him a job, but because of his authority issues, it only lasted for six months. After that, Deandre worked in food retail until Fall of 2015, when he was arrested for joining in with the wrong crowd.

As a first-time offender, he was given the opportunity to be released on work release after two years. This is when he came into contact with James Conway, a case manager for Keys to Work. When the two met, James immediately saw potential in the young man and enrolled him in WIOA (Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act), a bill designed to help job seekers gain employment, education, training, and services to succeed in the workforce. Because of Deandre’s age, he also qualified to be part of YES (Youth Employment Services) programs, which work with young adults to prepare them for the workforce and help them discover their next steps.

This next step brought Deandre to RecycleForce, a 501(c)3 offering “innovative recycling services all while providing life-changing workforce training to formerly incarcerated individuals.” While he was there, Deandre impressed his managers immensely and they offered him an associate position that provided him with resources to expand his skillset. He gained warehouse experience and earned his forklift license, a valuable, high-demand certification. But his employability skills growth did not stop there.

Deandre knew that he could continue to get certifications but having a high school diploma is something that would really make him stand out to employers. That is why when he re-entered the workforce in Fall of 2017, he got involved with Warren Township. Through the Walker Career Center, Deandre was able to earn his HSE (High School Equivalency) degree in October of 2017 and continue to further his career. At this point, his employability toolbox had a forklift license, warehouse experience, and a HSE. But he is a motivated young man and wasn’t going to stop there when he had so much more potential.

Since then, he has gone through OSHA and machine guard training and is currently working on getting his driver’s license and CLA (certified logistics associates) degree. “I have the motivation to get jobs and now I have my credentials so when I apply for a specific job, it’s nice to be able to show that certificate,” says Deandre when asked why he has continued to grow his resume. One of the main reasons behind this motivation is Deandre’s young son, who lives with him. He wants to be someone his son can both look up to and be proud of.

“What I got in trouble for was no where near like how I was raised but then I came to Keys to Work and things started changing for me. Changing for the better.”


Because of his drive, success, and dreams to excel, Deandre has been featured in a series of employability skills videos by Ascend Indiana and in a news segment by Fox 59. “I want to work and stay at a place for a long period of time,” says Deandre,” I want to find something I enjoy and make a career out of it.”

Posted on May 1st, 2018 in Success Story Tags:

Jailah with DWD Commissioner Payne, and Governor Holcomb

Every year, only twenty young adults graduating nationally from the JAG program are selected to be Smith Scholars, a $1000 renewing scholarship award given to a student who exemplifies leadership and service. The recipient is able to use this award toward paying for college. This year, one of the twenty students selected is from Marion County.

Jailah Carter is the President of the North Central JAG Career Association and she has come a long way to get to where she is now. Born in Gary, Indiana, she began her life in an area prone to crime and poverty. Because her father was in the Navy, shortly after she was born, her family moved to Virginia Beach and lived there until she started fifth grade at Washington Township in Indianapolis, where she had the opportunity to meet a whole new community. “I feel like moving when I was very young helped me to be able to talk and connect to everybody,” says Jailah, reflecting on her early years.

Jailah was first introduced to JAG as a freshman in high school – her brother had gone through the two-year program and was a graduating senior. When she entered her junior year and was able to enroll, she embraced the program, diving in and competing for the first time at the Career Development Conference in the writing competition. After winning first at Regionals, Jailah went onto state and didn’t place. She was devastated. “It was at that moment when I remember having the thought, ‘I don’t think she had ever had an experience that she felt like she didn’t achieve what she wanted to,’” says Jessica Kleffman, Jailah’s JAG Specialist.

Jailah always says, “I don’t look at challenges as obstacles, I look at them as hurdles.” She came back and won Outstanding Senior and then placed in State the following year. Because of her nomination as Outstanding Senior, Jailah was automatically put in the running to be one of the 2018 Smith Scholars and her stellar resume and essays did the rest.

“I don’t look at challenges as obstacles, I look at them as hurdles.”


Right now, Jailah is enlisted into the United States Navy and will be attending classes at Ball State right after she completes basic training. Her dream is that she will be a nurse in the military, double majoring in nursing and athletic training. “I like to have options and diversity when it comes to work and never want my days to be the same,” says Jailah.

Posted on April 13th, 2018 in Success Story
Josephine and Keysha

Josephine and Keysha

From the Far Eastside of Indianapolis, Keysha experienced criticisms and negativity in her teen years that lead to a wayward career path in her early twenties. After working some warehouse jobs and finishing high school, she decided that she wanted to put her mind to obtaining an office job – but a couple different training and certification courses fell through. The troubles that affect so many job seekers caught up to her – bills, childcare, and transportation left her feeling stuck in a place where she could not take the leap forward in her career that she needed.

Keysha initially came to Martindale Brightwood CDC via the IMPACT program – a state program “designed to help recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) achieve economic self-sufficiency.” MBCDC began in 1992 by residents hoping to stabilize their neighborhood and have a positive impact on their community. With services including homeowner repair, foreclosure counseling, small business development assistance, and neighborhood beautification, the organization aims to support residents at their most important place: home. Adding workforce development into its offerings, MBCDC has worked with EmployIndy for years by offering Youth Employment Services (YES), as well as job readiness training and GED referrals.

After initially skilling-up via IMPACT training, staff at MBCDC took notice as Keysha searched for a job. Her technology skills and general ability to stay organized lead Executive Director Josephine Rogers-Smith to simply say “We need to keep her!” MBCDC brought Keysha on for an administrative role, with YES benefits helping ease the burden of the aforementioned bills, childcare, and utilities.

“People like me just need a little push; we need a mentor.”


Keysha found a mentor through YES. She credits Julie Barrett, MBCDC’s YES coordinator with the guidance, reassurance, and positivity she needed to stay on a career path that is improving both herself and her family. “I realized that I just needed to deflect criticism, or people telling me that ‘I can’t,’ and focus on becoming an exception,” Keysha says. She now helps MBCDC handle phone calls, follow-ups, intake applications for homeowner repair programs, and other administrative documentation. It is impressive even for Keysha, who adds shyly “You never know what you’re capable of if you don’t try.”

Meanwhile Josephine remains pleased with both Keysha’s performance and her progress. What she seems to appreciate the most is that Keysha is willing to listen and cares about other people – which, paired with some basic technology skills, can go a long way for a community organization. As MBCDC currently works through a strategic planning process, she is excited to see how they can continue to work with EmployIndy and YES to get to the root of people’s needs. “Different things work for different people,” Josephine says. “People here pick each other up to try to really connect with someone.”