Forging a New Future

Australian Actress and Director Rachel Griffiths is quoted saying, “There’s nothing as exciting as a comeback – seeing someone with dreams, watching them fail, and then getting a second chance.” On Tyeisha Marshall’s eighth year of a 20-year sentence at Arrendale State Prison, she was ready for a comeback. But in order to take full advantage of her second chance she knew she would need a job, which would be difficult to land with a criminal background.


Marshall was referred to Goodwill of North Georgia’s Welding program, a work-based learning program hosted in collaboration with North Georgia Technical College and sponsored by Georgia Mountains Regional Commission Workforce Development. The program is designed to equip participants like Marshall with industry-recognized welding skills along with soft skills, such as workplace etiquette.

“Everything about the program was surprising,” she says. “I learned that I like welding, which is something I never thought I would do. I wasn’t the type of girl who worked with power tools or did manual labor.” This changed as Marshall learned the ins and outs of welding, added new skills to her résumé and learned how to interview with an employer. Welding was more than a new skill; it was Marshall’s ticket to a comeback.

Upon graduation of the program Marshall was hired as a welder for Fanello Industries, Inc. Her co-workers helped show her the ropes, and she wields a welding gun with confidence. One thing she loves about her job is the family-like atmosphere – she says someone is always there to help her if she needs it and her colleagues are very friendly and supportive.


Marshall is already planning her next career move, hoping to advance her welding techniques with additional courses at North Georgia Technical College. “I never thought I would do something like this because I’m kind of girly,” she laughs. “But I really like it here. This company rewards hard work and I’ve already earned a raise. I want to see how far I can go.” Crediting a combination of soft skills and technical skills for her new career path, Marshall is eager to take full advantage of her second chance. The embodiment of a comeback, she is embracing a new life and a promising career head-on.

Blue Girls Turned Gold

For Myesha Collins, Blue Girls Turned Gold has been a passion project that she’s been dreaming up for a long time.

“It’s always been an idea because of where I came from, as far as not having resources as a woman and a young teen mom,” she said. “It’s always been a s51Te175vwNL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_eed, but I never knew how to get it to fruition.”

Now a reality, Collins works with women to help them find these resources and support they need as they navigate through life.

“I’m offering them the opportunity to be braver and see how much power you have within yourself.”

Collins said the seed was planted for her after she became a mom at 15. “Having that responsibility at that age and not having the education and experience was difficult,” she said. “Having this extra responsibility made me know that I had to go harder because it wasn’t all about me anymore.”

Collins joined the military, but was sexually assaulted within the first six months. She said this left her feeling emotionally stuck, and like she was responsible for the bad things that happened.

“I had to learn a lot of lessons, the hard way,” she said. “I want to shorten those lessons for a lot of people.”

The nonprofit works with local women to help them turn from “blue” to “gold.” This is the process, Collins said, of going from not knowing to knowing how great you are. The group helps women empower themselves and gives them resources to make it through life’s struggles and challenges.

“Experiences shape who you are but they do not dictate who you become,” Collins said.

To aid in this work, Collins also recently put together an ebook, called Blue Girl Turns Gold. Along with eight other women and one man, the book shares stories of hardships and resilience, and finding the strength within one’s self to overcome.

“It was therapeutic for me, but I also knew so many women who had the stories,” she said. “It is empowering to see them empowered, and to me, that’s what it is all about.”

“I was looking outside for answers, for support, for encouragement, when all that was within me along with a higher power,” Collins said. “Experiences will occur, how you move forward is all that matters.”

Her organization is also partnering with the Genius is Common movement, to let everyone know they have genius within them. “Everybody starts out with a genius in them, you just have to figure out what the genius is,” Collins said. “It’s getting back to that seed that is already in us and really nurturing that.”

Up next, Collins and Blue Girls Turned Gold will host a Genius is Common Empowerment workshop on Saturday, March 31. Attendees will be lead in conversations on the genius that is inside of them. The group will go through a series of activities and discussions, and light refreshments will be provided. The session is for all ages, but geared toward boys and girls ages nine and up.

For more information on the organization and their upcoming events, find them online at, or Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

Gigi’s House: providing love without strings or sacrifice

Home to the world’s busiest airport, countless convention, and a burgeoning entertainment industry, Atlanta, unfortunately, provides the perfect-storm of opportunity for sex trafficking.

Called, she says, to do her part, Gigi’s House founder Sabrina Crawford has created a safe haven for formerly trafficked girls in the metro area. Providing a space for these girls to escape their situations and get their life back on track, Gigi’s House plays a key role in combatting the trafficking epidemic.

“I knew there was something inside of me that was just on fire to help these girls, and just mentoring them wasn’t enough,” she added. “Once you know that these girls are out on the street, you have to do something. You can’t just sit back and do nothing.”

A former CASA (court appointed special advocate) guardian, Crawford said she saw the problem firsthand, and noticed that the foster system was not always the best place for a girl just out of trafficking.

“I think seeing what the kids going through in the foster system helped me with this home,” she said. “It’s so much for than just being someone’s mom when you have the level of trauma that these girls had. There is no way they can get where they need to be as a young adult without going through the trauma-informed therapy. They have to work through their past issues.”

This trauma, Crawford said, typically includes sexual abuse from within the family of the girl. 95%, she said, have been abused before being trafficked.

“You can’t just put them in a home and expect that they are going to change,” she said. “They don’t know how. They have to be prepared to be independent.”

Now with a ten-room house, Crawford’s organization offers life-skills and a safe space for trafficked girls ages 13-19. The house in single-sex, and girls are homeschooled while they live there. This is important, Crawford says, as this added attention to their specific needs, away from the distractions of the school, helps with their long-term success.

The one-home model, in comparison to traditional foster care, is beneficial to the girls’ recovery, Crawford said. Here, they are able to work with professionals trained in trauma, and aren’t as susceptible to the shame they might feel in an integrated setting. Arming these girls with the practical and emotional skills and tools they need to succeed in the real world, Gigi’s House provides a crucial transformational zone.

With such a high need, Crawford hopes to expand her services to care for more girls. She would love to open a second home, and an independent living home for girls over the age of 19. Here, they will still have the support system, but not as many rules.

“It’s allowing them to start making decisions on their own, but with support staff there with them,” she said.

Those interested in supporting the organization can visit or attend one of their upcoming events, including a 5k, a golf outing, and a “Come Together” event, featuring keynote speaker Annie Downs, and award-winning recording artist Meredith Andrews. The concert will be held on Friday, March 23 at Community Bible Church. Tickets are $25, and can be purchased at

Goodwill’s C3: combining college and career for long-term success

With a goal of assisting 50,000 individuals this year, and placing 24,000 in jobs, Goodwill of North Georgia has all hands on deck to help people find new or better employment.

One of the many ways they are getting the job done? C3: College Career Catalyst.

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Individuals enrolled in C3 enroll in a college or credential program while working with Goodwill to receive additional support and placement help. Working with Goodwill, they participate in skills and professional development trainings while also attending post-secondary courses.

Ashia Walker, one of C3’s Navigators (who help applicants with the program and college), said the work they do with the students is all-encompassing, ensuring success.

“Our job is to help any of our participants who are enrolled in programs with post-secondary education,” Walker said. “That includes helping them figure out where they want to go to school, what they want to study, and helping them get their applications done.”

Once they get into school, the assistance continues through the first semester, making sure they can navigate the campus and their classes. From there, after completing their educational program, Goodwill helps them get a job.

“It’s helping people not just find a job, but helping them find post-secondary education or credentials to help them further their career,” Walker said. This includes assistance for those looking to earn more money, get a promotion, or take on a leadership role.

Ideal candidates for the program are those who have gone through a training at Goodwill, or who are referred from one of the many Goodwill partner organizations. Those working with the C3 program often don’t have any family members who have gone through the college process, and need that extra help.

“They don’t even know where to start,” Walker said. “I’ve had students who actually paid for their FAFSA to be completed, not knowing it was a free application.”

Walker has worked with Goodwill for six years, and has encountered a lot of success stories during her time, including a young man who is now enrolled at Chattahoochee Technical College, with hopes of eventually transferring to Kennesaw State University to study marine biology.

Walker calls his parents once a month to check in on the student and his progress. “That makes me happy every month that he’s still in school,” she said. “It’s important to know that somebody cared and that he wasn’t just a number, and somebody is proud of him.”

The C3 program partners with a variety of local technical college partners, including Athens Technical College, Gwinnett Technical College, and North Georgia Technical College.

With 13 career centers and five dedicated navigators, those interested in working with the C3 program can essentially visit any location to be matched with assistance.  For additional information, please visit

Breaking Barriers

The United States Department of Labor defines a non-traditional career for women as one in which 25% or less of those employed in the field are women. Yashika Jones has been a part of that statistic for nearly 14 years. While living in Connecticut, Jones was employed by the Sheet Metal Union. Working in this industry can often times be demanding, with long hours and unpredictable weather conditions.

Success Story Template

“I wanted a change,” Jones says. “If I’m going to be working outside, I wanted to work outside somewhere where the climate is nice.” In between jobs, Jones saw an advertisement for a job fair at one of Goodwill of North Georgia’s career centers. “I was really interested in the training opportunities available,” she says.

Jones applied for funding and went through an interview process before successfully enrolling in Goodwill’s Highway Construction training program. As a participant in the program, Jones received hands-on skills training and job placement assistance. “When I had nowhere to turn, I learned so much with Goodwill and got some certifications under my belt to help expand my job opportunities,” she says. Upon graduating from the program, Jones received traffic control and OSHA construction certifications. She also secured employment with the local Sheet Metal Workers Union. Some of her projects have included the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Working in a male dominated industry hasn’t always been easy for Jones. “It’s one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do,” she says. Over the years, Jones has proven her skillset and hard work ethic to her colleagues. “I’ve had to overcome being accepted for who I am. It’s been intimidating at times, but I’ve proven myself and showed that I am strong,” she says. Never letting her gender keep her from achieving her goals, Jones has remained motivated and hopes to continue advancing her career in the industry. She is currently pursuing another certification, EPA 608 Technician Certification, which would allow her to expand the type of projects she is qualified to work on. “I’m hoping to make myself more marketable, she says.

“Goodwill helped me find opportunities I wouldn’t have had otherwise,” she says. As an advocate for the program, Jones has referred many of her friends to Goodwill. “One of my greatest accomplishments is seeing my friends go through the program and come out successful,” Jones says. Crediting Goodwill for the opportunity to reenter the industry, she is now not only an advocate for Goodwill, but for women.

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The Art of Expression

In 2012, Olatoye “Toye” Olawoyin moved to the United States from Nigeria in search of opportunity. His mother dreamed of a better life for her children, but was unable to relocate to America herself. At only 17 years old, Olawoyin departed from his homeland with only a dream in his heart and two sisters by his side.

Residing in Duluth, Georgia was no coincidence for Olawoyin. His uncle, who already lived in Duluth, offered Olawoyin and his sisters a place to call home as they began this new chapter in their lives. Having a home away from home gave them the chance to be able to get a head start on taking advantage of their new opportunity. Olawoyin enrolled in school at Central Gwinnett High School, where he has now graduated from.

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Struggling with English as a second language and a hearing impairment, Olawoyin had a hard time transitioning to life in the United States and finding employment. He was referred to Goodwill’s Workforce Development program by his counselor at the Georgia Vocational Rehabilitation Office to get help finding a job that fit his skills and abilities. While in the program, he received hands-on training, which included on-the-job assessments for attendance, punctuality, quality of work and co-worker relations.

During these assessments, Olawoyin worked inside Goodwill’s Pleasant Hill store, processing and sorting donations. It wasn’t long before those evaluating him and working alongside him realized he was an incredibly hard worker. “Toye was a model participant while in the program. He was always on time and never missed a day of training. He always had a positive attitude and worked well with his supervisors, the other participants and the store associates,” says Job Coach Felicia Moran. In fact, store management was so impressed by his work ethic that Olawoyin secured full-time employment at the store as soon as he completed his program training.

For two years now, Olawoyin has worked hard in the store, determined to make his own way and provide for his family. He sends a portion of his weekly paycheck back to his family in Nigeria and doesn’t allow his hearing impairment to prevent him from succeeding. Though he is quiet and shy in nature, Olawoyin is also resilient and determined to succeed in everything he tries.

As a “floater” in the store, he is ready to step in wherever he is needed. Whether he’s processing donations in production or arranging merchandise neatly on shelves, he’s always smiling and giving a thumbs up. “I really like my job and I want to keep working,” he says. Looking towards the future, Olawoyin hopes to continue saving his money so that he can visit his mother in Africa and further pursue his dreams of becoming an artist.

Support and Guidance for Students Without Mothers

Navigating the college-entry process can be a struggle for even the most informed and prepared student. With seemingly endless paperwork and costs that add up quick, it can be a tricky time for a young adult.

Trickier, still, if that young student doesn’t have a mother to help guide them through. Luckily for them, Atlanta’s Students Without Mothers nonprofit offers support and scholarships for students in the 21-county metro area who don’t have a mother in the home.

Started by Mary Torrence Williams in 2004, the organization provides financial assistance and life-skills for students who need a little extra adult guidance.

“Not having their mom just makes it really difficult to transition from high school to college,” Williams said. “There are so many questions and things that your mom would normally figure out for you. Most of the students we help are the first in their family to go to college, so there’s nobody who can help. There’s a lot that they need to get ready for this next big step in their lives.”

The nonprofit’s scholarship program holds an application period from September to January, and is open to high school juniors. While any students in this age group are encouraged to apply, priority is given to those living with a guardian whose annual income is less than $50,000 a year. The scholarship totals $4,000, which is disbursed in four $1,000 annual payments throughout the student’s college experience. To continue to receive the award, students must annually meet the scholarship’s standards.

Scholarship recipients are officially awarded in their senior year, after completing the groups Life Coaching Program. The Students Without Mothers’ Life Coaching Program helps provide additional support for students during this time of great transition in their lives. Working with Atlanta’s Gifted Education Foundation, the organization offers students the opportunity to work on important life skills training. The training sessions help students figure out how to choose a major, how to choose a college, how to deal with conflict resolution, and other important life challenges.

Students who receive the scholarship also receive a new or refurbished laptop for college. Computers are often a cost-prohibitive item for students coming from low-income families, and this additional resource will help on their college quest. Scholarship recipients are also awarded gift cards to help offset the costs that come even before starting their first college class: school supplies, dorm and room needs, and even personal items.

Since its inception in 2004, the organization has helped 72 students. Williams said that much of their success comes from the help and dedication of the nonprofit’s board. “I think the biggest area that we’ve grown is in our board members and board commitment,” she said. “They all share the passion and mission for the organization and they are all devoted to making this happen. It is because of their commitment that we have been able to grow and continue to help students.”

To help sustain their work in providing financial support for students, including scholarship funding, computers, and gift cards, the nonprofit is always looking for more donors and supporters. For more information on how you can give to the organization, or if you know a student eligible for the scholarship,

Fair and just representation under the law with Gideon’s Promise

The 1963 case of Gideon v. Wainwright, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a unanimous decision that defendants unable to pay for legal representation must be provided on by the state. This landmark decision was the birth of the public defender’s system in the United States, and created a momentous shift in the criminal justice system.

To honor that decision, and to ensure all public defenders were informed, engaged, and encouraged as attorneys, Gideon’s Promise was founded. Started in 2007, the nonprofit works with public defenders across the country to train, mentor and support them to provide quality representation to individuals who can’t afford attorneys.

While working with attorneys directly, Gideon’s Promise wants to shift current cultural perceptions, especially as they pertain to people of limited means. By supporting the grueling work of public defenders, Gideon’s Promise hopes to change the way defendants are processed through the system.

The organization is also trying to do their part in stopping mass incarceration. According to their website, since the Gideon v. Wainwright case was tried in 1963, the prison population in the United States has gone from 217,000 to 2.3 million, even though there has been a decrease in crime rates.

To combat these growing numbers, Gideon’s Promise is making it personal. “We felt like who better to partner with than public defenders who help tell the story of their clients, their client’s significance, their importance, and why we should advocate for people who have no voice in court,” said Ilham Askia, Gideon’s Promise Executive Director.

This partnership starts by acknowledging the demanding workload for public defenders. While the American Bar Association suggests that attorneys take on no more than 150 cases each year, the average public defender tried between 250 and 300. Gideon’s Promise works with young, new attorneys to make sure they are prepared for the work ahead of them.

To achieve its goals, Gideon’s Promise has multiple programs. The New Public Defender Program works with attorneys with less than three years of experience, providing them with comprehensive training and support for the first three years of their career.

To create a pipeline of new public defenders, Gideon’s Promise’s Summer Law Clerk Program attracts and recruits current law students interested in public defense. Each student is paired with a partner law firm for a 6-10 week summer training program.

Askia said their ideal public defender candidates are students already interested in the specialty.

“You have the heart-set, mind-set, soul-set to really do this work,” she said. “You have to really want to change and make a difference in the lives of people.”

“Law school tends to strip the humanity out of it,” she said. “You are learning about the law, but at the end of the day, you are representing people. So when we go into recruit, we try to remind them of that. When you talk about public defense, it takes a special breed of lawyer to do this work.”

For more information on Gideon’s Promise, including how to become a Summer Clerk Program partner firm, go to, or check them out on Facebook and Twitter.

How will you give this year?

Join the #GAGivesDay and #GivingTuesday movement! On Tuesday, November 28, charities, families, businesses, community centers and students around the world come together for one common purpose: to celebrate generosity.

There are many ways that people choose to give, such as making a financial contribution or volunteering their time at a local community-based organization. There are other ways to donate, too, like offering your time and skills to a food pantry or donating items to your local Goodwill. For the latter of those options, gently-used household goods will generate revenue to support employment and job training programs for people in the community. When you donate and when you shop, your actions help us put people to work. In fact, for every one donation, Goodwill is able to provide one hour of job training.

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No matter how you choose to give this holiday season, remember that November 28 is a great day to get started. Find the right way for your family, community, company or organization to come together to give something more, then share how you are giving and inspire others to also give.

To make a financial contribution to Goodwill of North Georgia, visit

Love Rolls: Providing Comfort and Care for Atlanta’s Homeless

It’s fairly common to hear about seasoned CEOs and company leaders and their successful business and nonprofit ventures. It’s not every day, though, that one of these success stories comes from the mind of a high school sophomore.

Such is the case, though, for the burgeoning nonprofit Love Rolls, and its founder, Atlanta High School student Kendall Robinson.

What started as a project for the 2015 Youth Summit quickly turned into a passion project for Robinson, as she saw firsthand the difficulties Atlanta’s homeless population endured while living on the street. While handing out goods, including toilet paper, at the Atlanta Community Food Bank, she encountered a homeless man who confided in her his need for the item.

“He was so grateful to receive it because normally he would have to ration out one roll for one month,” Robinson said. “I was completely shocked.”

This simple request for an item so often taken for granted sparked an idea for Robinson. Since then, the group has transformed from a small coalition of Robinson’s family and friends to a collaboration with large donor organizations, including Procter and Gamble (Charmin), Kimberly-Clark (Scott Brand), and even Chick-fil-A.

Distributing more than 100,000 rolls of toilet paper to Atlanta’s homeless population, Love Rolls has started a movement for the community, holding toilet paper drives and filling up a warehouse space to store the rolls for distribution.

Individuals can either come to the warehouse for pick-up or come to one of the many outreach events where Love Rolls hands out the toilet paper.

Love Rolls has also extended beyond the Atlanta-metro area, and has made multiple out-of-state distributions, to Florida, Louisiana, and New Jersey, to name a few. Their goal for 2017 is to make even more trips outside of Atlanta to distribute the toilet paper.

The organization has helped countless individuals, but Robinson said one specific man, whom she met during a distribution at Hurt Park, left an impression.

“He said ‘Finally, somebody thought that we might need this,’” she remembered. “It made me realize that I am out here doing the right thing and I am helping people, and they are grateful for what they are receiving.”

Robinson says she couldn’t do the work without all the support from her family and friends. Love Rolls was only supposed to be a one-week drive, but turned into something much bigger. The word of mouth and community support have also enabled the organization to host their recent fundraising 5K, which included fun and games for participants, raffles and door prizes, and food trucks and a movie viewing.

“It was only because of the help of family and friends and getting the word out,” she said.

For more information on the organization, including how to volunteer or donate, individuals can visit