Unity in the Family Graduates 22 Students in Environmental Jobs Training Program




By: Tony McCray

On Saturday, March 26th, Dillard University’s Environmental Careers Worker Training Program, operated by Pensacola-based Unity in the Family Ministry, graduated twenty-two (22) students Saturday March 26th at the 615 N. “W” St. campus.  The trainees have matriculated through twelve weeks of free training from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm five days a week. Dr. Calvin Avant recruited the instructors, counselors, advisory board and the administrative staff mostly from the Pensacola area. Several technical trainers traveled to Pensacola from New Orleans and Panama City to shore up the local instruction team.

Pensacola Police Chief David Alexander gave the keynote address urging the graduates to focus and take advantage of this new opportunity for success in a new career. Unity in the Family gave each student a financial award of $100 dollars as they were called up to receive their graduation certificates. However, there were additional financial awards made to outstanding trainees.

The award for perfect attendance went to Khalil Dirden, Zoey Fields, and Ivory Scott received an additional $250. Financial awards for Perseverance in the amount of $250 went to Robert Donson, who was accidently shot in his leg during training, however he never gave up, and Terria Demby, the only female graduate, who endured a male dominated class received a financial award of $250.  The Hard Worker Award of $250 went to Ray Williams, Larry Burgess Sr. the oldest member of the class, and Jayston Fails who operated a Friday night weekly event at the historic Bunny Club. The Technical Training Student of the Year Award in the amount of $300 went to Richard Johnson. The Basic Skill Award of $300 went to Frederick Wilcox, and the Overall Student of the Year Award went to Zoey Fields.    

The students have been trained in asbestos abatement, lead paint removal, hazard waste clean-up, weatherization, and basic construction skills.  Industry certification certificates were awarded to these students at Saturday’s graduation.  Unity in the Family Ministry will now begin to place the graduates with companies that operate in the areas the graduates are trained in.  With the help of Dillard University’s Deep South Center of Environmental Justice, and the other three sites in the program: Houston, Detroit, and New Orleans, Unity has the option of offering jobs to its graduates anywhere in the nation.

Dr. Calvin Avant, the CEO OF Unity in the Family Ministry, was approached by Tony McCray, President of Tony McCray and Associates, to apply for the training program’s operational grant in the fall of 2014. Dr. Beverly Wright, the Executive Director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice at Dillard University in New Orleans, contacted McCray after she spoke in favor of no further landfill expansion at a Wedgewood landfill moratorium hearing by Escambia County government in the fall of 2014.

Dr. Wright asked McCray to identify a 501©3 non-profit to apply to become one of the four sites operating the training initiative.  McCray recommended Avant’s non-profit and the work on the proposal began.  The five year grant award was approved with a value of $600,000 for five years.  The grant provides research and training in developing environmental jobs workforce and provides an administrative capability for Unity to partner with environmental groups on other efforts.

For more information on the next class please contact Dr. Calvin Avant, the program’s Site Director at (850) 748-0675 or by email at cavant1@bellsouth.net.

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