An inside look at lives transforming

Staff members sits through job-training program to learn more about what guests experience

Written from the perspective of Tony Schneider, community engagement specialist, who sat through The Joseph Project, which is a four-day, faith-based, job employment training program hosted by St. John’s Ministries. This is the first of a five-part series looking at The Joseph Project from the inside.


Wednesday, July 26 (10:00–11:30 am)

Day one of The Joseph Project is known as “intake day.” It is the beginning of a lifelong journey for participants and serves as a good starting point for Eugene Smalls, a case manager. The Joseph Project is a pathway for participants hoping to take the next step towards self-sufficiency. At 10 am, the participants have found the coffee and donuts, checked-in and taken their seats. Each of them is starting to fill out the intake packet. Shortly after everyone begins, Eugene takes the floor to start the day.

Eugene Smalls introducing himself and The Joseph Project.

Those of you that know Eugene know he is the epitome of charisma. Dressed to the nines, setting an example for all in attendance, he steps to the center and starts his introduction. He introduces himself first, followed by an overview of The Joseph Project, the days ahead, and why he loves this program. He ends with a promise, “You will see me every day until you graduate but know this…when you graduate from this program, you’re stuck with me for life!”  Eugene’s passion to help and support doesn’t just exist during work hours. “I want to see you be successful today, tomorrow, and every single day moving forward,” Eugene said to the group.

One of the many beautiful aspects of The Joseph Project is that it is available to anyone. It doesn’t matter your age, race, gender, or background; The Joseph Project exists to guide the unemployed to the arms of employers seeking qualified candidates. This specific class consists of four men, ages 22 to 61, made up of various races and ethnicities. It was now time for the participants to introduce themselves.

Standing in front of the room, all participants were asked to answer a series of questions about what they expect from the upcoming week. Two questions, and their answers, really stood out to me.

  • “Are you dressed for success?”
    • “Not right now. I didn’t know we had to dress up for intake day. I do have dress clothes at home though, so I’ll be ready for next class.”
    • “Probably not. I knew we’d be in a classroom today, so I just dressed comfortably.”
    • “I think so. Knowing that this program connects me with manufacturing jobs I’d say I am more than dressed for success.”
    • “Oh, absolutely I am. I have been working different jobs in different fields my entire life. I know what I am capable of and possess the attitude to do what I need to get back on my feet.”
Eugene Smalls & Lucas doing Q&A.
  • “Do you want, or do you need a job?”
    • “I need a job, man. I have children to take care of at home. I don’t want to be relying on others, I want to be my own man with my own things.”
      “I want a job. I have financial obligations like the next person, but I also want to enroll in school and school isn’t cheap nowadays.”
      “I need a job so I can get my own place and get out of shelter.”
    • “I want and need a job. I want to feel valued and productive again, I want to contribute to society once more. However, I also need a job to get back on my feet financially and meet requirements of my parole officer due to a ticket I received.”

The questions and answers allowed us to understand the levels of confidence everyone had. It displayed their ability to show up, and their overall experience. The participants had an opportunity to speak freely and showed us who was comfortable and prepared. It also showed who was uncomfortable yet prepared, and the level of commitment each participant was bringing to this class of The Joseph Project.

The final task for intake day was going through and completing the participant intake packet. The packet, something that all must complete, collects basic contact information, recent work experience, and education. Personal information is collected too, such as: Do you have reliable transportation? Do you have an updated resume? A disability? Criminal background? Are you a veteran? Currently on parole/probation?

These questions, and many others gather information about the barriers they face, and the assets they bring to their goal of attaining and maintaining employment.

Eugene walks the participants through the intake packet, ensures they are completed, that all information is collected, and documents signed. Once the packets are complete Eugene reminds everyone of orientation on Friday. Everyone is dismissed for the remainder of their day.


Friday, July 28 (10:00–11:00 am)

Orientation day is the final step before classroom work begins. Today I witnessed two participants return and two individuals step away for any number of reasons. Sometimes a participant can no longer make the commitment to attend class all week, others may not pass a drug screen, and sometimes they don’t have the drive to move forward. My favorite part of the morning was Eugene’s welcome message to the two returning participants.

“I am sorry that half of our class is no longer participating, but I promise I will give you no less than I would a class of 20 people. Now let’s begin.”

The day begins with a quiz for the participants. The first line on the quiz instructs you to “read all directions before beginning,” followed by 15 varying questions/instructions asking participants to “state your favorite color,” “look at the instructor and tell him what your favorite food is,” “count to three out loud in another language.” The quiz ends by stating “Now that you have read the instructions, ignore numbers 1-15, sit quietly and enjoy the show.”

The Joseph Project participants, Mark & Lucas, completing the questionnaire on Orientation Day.

As the only person in the room to read all the directions, it was a joy to see everyone else yell out “cheese curds!”, “royal blue!” and “uno, dos, tres.” It was funny knowing they’ll laugh at the end when they realize they didn’t have to follow any of the prompts previously listed. The lesson was that there is a reason for everything that happens in The Joseph Project.

Following the quiz, the remainder of our time is spent going over class expectations. The participants learn about Lombardi Time, and the importance of being early for commitments, appointments, and work. We discuss classroom conduct; things like respecting the instructors and their time commitment; showing up with a good attitude; maintaining sobriety and meeting AODA expectations for the class and work; and most of all, keeping an open mind to learning.

The Joseph Project exists to connect those genuinely seeking opportunities with opportunities that already exist. The Joseph Project, hosted by St. John’s Ministries, is class 18 overall and has two participants ready to make the necessary changes to affect the rest of their lives. Stay tuned and follow their journey over the next few weeks.

Let the transformation begin.

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