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Focus: HOPE graduates look toward future

Derek Draplin
The Detroit News

Detroit — For David Case of Livonia, Focus: HOPE's workforce training program taught him more than just computer skills. It saved his life, he said.

"I'd probably be dead or in jail," said Case, 26, who was among more than 100 participants who graduated Thursday from the organization's workforce development programs.

Focus: HOPE, a Detroit nonprofit founded in 1968, fights racism and poverty by offering educational programs and career training. All graduates completed course work through Focus: HOPE's Machinist Training Institute, Information Technologies Center or Center for Advanced Technologies.

The graduation was held at the Center for Advanced Technologies building on Oakman in Detroit.

"Prior to coming to Focus: HOPE, I was a high school graduate, and I went to some college but college wasn't for me," Case said. "I tried to get into the armed services, but due to some juvenile charges and adult charges, I was ineligible so I really had no motivation and no really strong structure to…get me on the right track."

Case learned about Focus: HOPE's educational programs from a Department of Human Services case worker. He studied information technology and plans to enter the organization's advanced IT program after graduation.

Corey Ellis, a 2010 graduate of the machinist training program, gave the keynote address. Ellis works locally as a tool and die manager.

"There are a ton of jobs available right here in this city as long as you can continue to make yourself marketable," Ellis said. "You have to be someone that an employer wants to hire. If you can make yourself that person and continue your education…you'll have plenty more doors open for you."

Monajean Ousley, 34, of Detroit entered the machine training program to get out of her restaurant job.

"For me, I saw it as an opportunity to get out of where I was," she said. "I worked at a restaurant for 20 years — I started at 14 years old — and even though I went to college for a couple years … I didn't complete it."

She studied engineering in college, so the machine training program was a natural fit for her, she said. She is now employed by Chassix, an automotive parts supplier.

"My passion was always to work with my hands, to work building things," she said.

Case said he benefited most from the environment at Focus: HOPE.

"I might have had the capabilities to do certain things, but I just wasn't mature enough take those on," he said. "Being at the age I am at, you grow up on certain electronics and it was something I liked to do, so I came here, bought into the work readiness — it was my 9-5."

Since its career training programs began in 1981, Focus: HOPE has helped to train nearly 12,000 men and women for work.