Meet Cheryl Johnson
When I said I was entering Goodwill’s training program to learn “Green Construction,” everyone’s eyebrows went up. I had no hands-on experience in construction, but with a background in Heritage Preservation I thought the training in Green Construction would give me a leg-up. Heritage Preservation is a field that seeks to preserve, conserve and protect buildings, objects, landscapes or other artifacts of historical worth.
A few years ago, I left the workforce to care for my new born baby. I had my son during the thick of the recession, so I didn’t mind staying at home. When I was ready to go back to work a couple of years later, however, it was hard to find a job. I accepted a temporary job with the US Census. During a Census meeting at Goodwill’s South DeKalb Career Center, I browsed the center’s bulletin boards and made a mental note to come back.
One week later, I attended an information session for the Green Construction program and decided to join. Because my goal wasn’t to work hands-on in the construction business, it took some creativity to fit me into the program, but Goodwill’s Green Construction staff made it happen. They sent me to Clark Atlanta University’s Environmental Justice program where I received various environmental certifications. When I finished the 15-week program at Clark Atlanta, I had training in OSHA; hazmat and asbestos safety; first aid; weatherization and basic construction. I loved the class; I loved connecting with other non-traditional students who faced obstacles to employment.
The training, combined with my education in Heritage Preservation, prepared me to teach people how to preserve buildings and artifacts in a way that’s environmentally safe. Not only do I consult, but I teach people in a traditional classroom, too. I got a position with Clark Atlanta due to the relationships I built in the Green Construction training. Six months ago, Clark Atlanta hired me as a teaching assistant in the Environmental Justice Center. In the classroom, I’m able to tell the full story – from the hands-on construction aspect to the long-term maintenance and preservation of buildings.
In the program, I found a network of people who I partner with and refer people to now. I met people who are helping me with my consulting business in green construction. I entered the training program but I’m also an advocate for Goodwill’s career centers, too. Even if you have a computer at home, sometimes it’s good to be in a nice, quiet, professional environment with smiling faces. I love what Goodwill is doing and I will always be an advocate for them.