Dear Fellow Staff—

For this Holiday update, I am taking a break from the COVID-19 message I have addressed the past thirty-six weeks. By now everyone knows what to do to stay safe, how to social distance and understands the limits of whom they can be around. Being the Holiday season, I would like to highlight our wide range of incredible programs, and speak about the lives we are changing through our hard work and commitment.

In our Youth In Transition School, there is one student in particular who continues to defy the odds and is an example of persistence and hard work.  Camille has consistently attended all of her virtual classes and nearly achieved perfect attendance. She did not allow the pitfalls of virtual learning, such as having issues with her laptop or experiencing poor Wi-Fi connections, to stop her. She took the initiative to log onto classes by using her phone and actively participated. Camille is committed to her academics and utilizes her teacher’s office hours to receive the virtual support she needs. Her commitment culminated in achieving straight A’s during the first academic quarter! Camille’s leadership qualities are often on full display as she is willing to assist her peers who may experience difficulty navigating the technological aspect of virtual learning or may be struggling with their classwork.

Camille, NCIA celebrates your achievements and we are very proud of you! You are truly a shining star!

In our Business Services Division, they also have shining stars! This week was the kickoff of our snow contract with the first snowstorm on December 16th and 17th. It was a new challenge for them since we had to remove snow and ice from roadways and sidewalks from 14 Maryland Transit Administration sites, all in frigid temperatures. Ten program-supported employees per day assisted with the snow removal. They were eager and enthusiastic to get the job done. However, three of these employees went over and above in their efforts, as they opted to stay on site until the work was complete, resulting in them working 14-hour days to accomplish this task. These employees are Joshua Zimmerman, Lee Tarver, and Devon Butler. We certainly would have had to work much longer to clear these sites without their hard work and dedication.

Our Residential Services does not have a person singled out. Rather, they would like to recognize all of our residents on how exceptionally well that they have weathered this pandemic. While some did challenge our “new normal,” they did so with caring, understanding, and patience as they strove to comply with our lockdown. They understood and took to heart what was needed to maintain their health and safety and that of those around them. When frustrated or overwhelmed by the situation, each resident sought support and guidance from those whom they trusted–their residential staff. Still today, our residents continue to embrace the opportunities provided within the homes and have shown exceptional resilience in adapting to our current daily routines. It is  certainly a tribute to the hundreds of staff working in our homes, and the care and compassion they exhibit on a daily basis.

In our Career Development Center Program, Troy Mouzon is a participant and has been doing very well in participating in our Remote Services. Per his House Manager, Troy looks forward to participating in weekly Zoom Activities with his Case Manager, Rhonda O’Bryant, and other participants. Mr. Mouzon’s Service Coordinator has expressed how impressed she is with how well they are working together. Mr. Mouzon has improved his communication skills, his interaction with his peers, and improvement with his behaviors since participating in our Remote Services. During the Zoom activities, participants listen to a variety of different music selections (chosen by the individuals), exercise, play charades and watch wrestling (Troy’s favorite thing to do). Mr. Mouzon gets very excited when he sees his Case Manager and peers during Zoom meetings and is disappointed when the sessions end. Kudos to Troy for doing a great job.

Raymon was a recent graduate of our Charlotte Vocational Training Center. He had gotten sick earlier this year, lost his job because of his illness, and ended up at a homeless shelter during the height of COVID. He started our CDL training program with a suspended out of state license, feeling hopeless. After working with our VTC staff, he knocked down countless barriers and has started a new chapter of life. He now has his CDL Class B license, a job paying $18/hour with benefits, bought a used car, and has moved into a supportive housing unit. He is currently saving up for his own place.

Raymon speaks of his NCIA experience: “With NCIA by my side, I have overcome a lot of barriers. They helped me get my license back, to gain stability, and I accept them as my family and they accept me. For the rest of my life I will say NCIA gave me the ability to live again, to be able to focus, to be able to grow again. I want other people to be able to come to this program, and develop, and learn, and achieve.”

Jerome has a similar story. He came into our Baltimore VTC for CDL Class B training. He had been incarcerated for almost six years. Prior to his release, his father brought down all of his documentation and enrolled him in our training. Less than a week after his release, he came in for his orientation. Jerome was an excellent student, never missing a day of class, often times coming in early and leaving late. His training was heavily impacted by COVID but he persevered. He furthered his training and was able to acquire a CDL Class A training with a family friend, utilizing the basic theory and training he acquired at VTC Baltimore. As of last week, Jerome was hired with Coast to Coast driving over the road making $1,400.00 weekly.

During this Holiday season, on behalf of all of the people we serve, I want to say a joyful “Thank You” to all of our dedicated staff. NCIA programs are changing thousands of lives every year and we continue our mission with the values on which we were founded 43 years ago — unconditional care and the commitment to treating everyone as an individual.

As Nelson Mandela once said:

It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.

So thank you for making a difference in so many lives, and have a safe and joyful holiday.