“It means the world to me to know that someone cares enough to want to help. Domestic violence destroys and Pathways to Independence rebuilds.”
These are the words of Natalie P., a survivor of domestic violence who celebrated a personal milestone after graduating from the Pathways to Independence program at The Enterprise Center in Philadelphia. Natalie and 12 other graduates celebrated their hard work in completing the program, and now look to foster valuable and rewarding futures.
The Pathways to Independence program, which started in 2011, is an entrepreneurship and leadership development program for women who have survived domestic violence. Funded by Verizon and facilitated by Women Against Abuse and The Enterprise Center, a leading business and economic development accelerator, the program aims to help domestic violence survivors escape the cycle of violence and prepare them to step into entrepreneurial roles. Through hands-on training, rigorous classes and individualized coaching, the women gain communication, professionalism and networking experience and learn practical skills such as budgeting and time management. To date, more than 52 women have graduated from the program in Philadelphia, 19 of whom have started their own businesses.
Verizon’s participation is about more than just donating money to the initiative. Verizon employees take an active role in the Pathways to Independence graduations, sharing congratulations and words of wisdom to inspire the graduates as they move forward. Doug Smith, a senior-level executive from Verizon, has addressed grads in the past, and most recently Mary Washington-Nieves, associate director of Strategic Sales – Healthcare Mobility for Verizon Wireless, had the pleasure of speaking to program graduates offering words of inspiration and encouragement.
“Not only was I inspired by the amazing graduates, alumni and staff, but I was reminded of the power of the human spirit and the unwavering strength of women,” said Washington-Nieves. “The services offered by The Enterprise Center change lives, families and communities.”
The future is bright for the 13 June graduates of Pathways to Independence. With her enhanced skill set and re-instilled confidence, Natalie P. plans to grow a cleaning business. Yvonne P. has enrolled in a nursing aide class and plans to open a daycare for mentally-challenged children. Kimberly F. also has her heart set on serving children and plans to open a 24-hour daycare. And Yasmine B. aspires to open her own restaurant.
Another program graduate summed up the meaning of Verizon’s partnership and its impact on their journeys from abuse to independence and a renewed self-esteem: “It means that our voices are resounding, and with the appropriate help, success is tangible,” she said. “You are not your circumstance. Live for yourself. You are worthy.”