DENVER – As the school year begins for most kids around Colorado, it’s graduation day for a group of hardworking adults.
The graduates are from the nonprofit program CrossPurpose.
“CrossPurpose is a career and community development program where we help people get into careers making over $15 an hour,” Andrew Marquez said.
The classes accept students ages 18 to 55. They are taught conflict resolution, interview skills and get certified in jobs that make a living wage like construction, HVAC and medical coding.
The tuition is paid for through scholarships.
The people in CrossPurpose's program come from poverty. Some even spent time in prison. Walking across the stage at graduation, though, they are all taking steps toward a better life.
“I don’t want to sit here and be a slave to the government. I want to sit here and be able to say I pay for all of this stuff alone. I don’t want to have somebody asking me well what’s your pay stubs? What’s your bank account look like? What kind of car are you driving?” Adrianna Medina said.
She grew up in foster care, lost her husband earlier this year and is now raising her four children and four stepchildren alone.
Without the program, she says she would be stuck at her low-paying daycare job and getting by on government assistance.
“I feel like education is key. I have a lot of skills but a lot of times I felt like I didn’t advance because I didn’t have the education, so I want my kids to sit here and live life and not do the teen pregnancy or live in poverty or sit here and be around toxic people,” she said.
Medina is planning to get an associate’s degree with an emphasis in paralegal. She hopes to go on to get a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Metropolitan State University of Denver.
“I think if it wasn’t for [CrossPurpose] I wouldn’t have found myself,” she said.
“It’s kind of changing the game for somebody’s whole family. If they’re the first person and they’re making 21 dollars an hour their kids are going to follow them that way,” Marquez said.
The program also aims to help break the cycle of poverty to give offenders a second chance at life.
“And that’s why you see such a high recidivism rate in corrections. Maybe somebody was making $11 an hour but if they had a career and people in their corner maybe they wouldn’t be forced to make the same decisions they made before,” Marquez said.
CrossPurpose's class of 2018 graduated with the highest average wage in the program’s history at $15.22 per hour.