In December 2021, Gwendolyn Jackson (39) found herself without a job and in need of help. While applying for government assistance, she learned about the “Strategies to Empower People” (STEP) Program and its partnership with Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Louisiana to provide job training, employment and supportive services to eligible families.

As a participant in the first cohort of STEP, Jackson had the opportunity to take advantage of Goodwill’s signature two-week job training course called GEAR (Goodwill Education Advancement & Readiness) Program, where she was able to improve her problem solving, communication and interview skills, among other things.

“It helped me understand how to act. I’m really shy, and I don’t like to talk to people. It [GEAR] helps you open up and express yourself and teaches you how to conduct yourself in an interview,” said Jackson.

After participating in the GEAR program, Jackson was hired as a work experience employee, where she was exposed to working in an office environment.

“At Goodwill we have a motto, ‘Be so great they can’t ignore you’. We just couldn’t ignore Gwen,” said Nicole Foster-Espadron, Goodwill’s Director of Workforce Readiness.

In July 2022, she was hired full-time as a Peer Support Representative for Goodwill’s Good Transition program, which helps young people living in or aging out of foster care. Jackson, who lived in the foster care system until the age of seven, says her position is a good fit.

“I don’t remember much about living in foster care, but I can relate to many of the struggles these kids are going through, and I’m just someone they can vent to,” said Jackson.

Jackson is grateful for the opportunities she has received through STEP and Goodwill and hopes she can go further with the company.