Our actions can connect with those of others

Published 12:00 am Thursday, August 12, 2004

Commentary by Hank Sanders

“Those Selma Works graduates really impressed Pete Berneir over at Renosol,” said Wayne Vardaman.

“Bernier said that they far exceeded his expectations.”

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Vardaman continued, “This program at Wallace Community College really helps our efforts to bring businesses and jobs to Selma.”

As I heard these words from Wayne, I thought, “It’s been a journey of faith.”

Wayne Vardaman is the president of the Center for Commerce located in Selma. He is also the chief economic development officer for Selma/Dallas County.

Renosol is a new company in Selma that will eventually hire 120 employees to make car parts for Hyundai.

As Vardaman spoke about these graduates, his face flushed with joy.

My mind was flushed with memories of how this program started on this journey of faith.

Selma Mayor James Perkins, Jr., Wallace Community College President Dr. James Mitchell and I were sitting in Essie’s Place over breakfast one Saturday morning last fall.

Perkins said, “It would be a tragedy for local people not to get these jobs we are bringing to Selma.

We have to find a way to make sure our people are prepared for these jobs.”

I was quiet, but Mitchell spoke up.

“I think I know how we can do it,” as he went on to lay out his ideas.

Perkins and Mitchell kept talking back and forth as what eventually became Selma Works emerged.

I mostly listened.

Even then we were on a journey of faith.

Before we left this moment in time, we each had our tasks.

President Mitchell and Mayor Perkins were moving within days.

I did not move as quickly because some things had to be in place before I could effectively encourage officials to help fund the program.

I did not know if it could be done, but I was also traveling on faith as I worked.

What is Selma Works?

In the words of Project Manager, Shandra Smith, “Selma Works is a journey of discovery in personal growth and career guidance.

It’s about getting a job but it’s a lot more.

It puts people in a learning environment with others who have hopes of bettering themselves.”

It other words, it takes people who don’t qualify for today’s jobs, prepares them academically, culturally and attitude-wise so they have a leg up in getting a job.

As Shandra Smith talked about Selma Works, I could hear the pride in her voice and feel the rhythm of joy in her words.

She had also traveled the journey of faith.

No two or three leaders can accomplish much by themselves.

It takes a team effort.

While the idea of Selma Works was conceived and initiated by three men over an early morning breakfast, it took a lot of people to make it a reality.

Dr. Roy Johnson, Chancellor of the Two-Year College System helped.

A Wallace Community College staff team led by Donitha Griffin and Raji Gourdine helped flesh out the bones of the concept with time, place, resources and operations.

They did not know whether or not it would work but they traveled on faith.

The students in Selma Works did not know if the hours, days, weeks and months they would invest in class attendance and preparation would produce fruit.

They took a chance, traveling on faith.

In February of this year, Selma Works commenced.

In April of this year, Focused Industry Training (FIT), a state program, joined Selma Works at Wallace Community College.

They operate hand in glove to take students at whatever level they find them and move them up the learning ladder so a personnel director can say, “They far exceeded our expectation.”

You have to see the faces of these students to understand.

You have to feel the growing hope in their lives to fully appreciate what this means.

I could feel it when I heard their stories at graduation.

I could feel it last week as I talked with the following: Sam McDaniels, a 30-year-old father of three children; Dale Daily, a 43-year-old mother of three children; Sabrina Fikes, a 33-year-old mother of two children; and Nora Rush, a 48-year-old mother of three children.

Each moved on hope, acted on faith and was rewarded with a new lease on life.

Many will be further rewarded because James Perkins, Jr., James Mitchell and others built a bridge so others could cross the raging river of no work and/or less-than-productive work on this journey of hope, faith and reward.

It is not often that we meet expectations.

It is rare when we exceed expectations.

The words “far exceeded expectations” are still ringing in my ears.

EPILOGUE -We never know how actions we take will connect with the acts of others to create something significant.

Since we cannot foresee the end results of our actions, too many of us fail to act.

A few of us, through our faith and actions, step out in the waters of doubt.

In the process, we build bridges for others to cross over.