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Published on November 11th, 2019 | by Millennium Magazine Staff


Former Inmates Graduate and Begin New Chapter

By Nicole H. Holland

Columbia, SC – Recently six students graduated from an HVAC Training program at Midlands Technical college. These men spent the last five months working, attending classes and taking exams in preparation of working for local HVAC companies in the Midlands. They were the first six to graduate from the training program offered in partnership with REEMERGE, which is a second chance re-entry program.

Eric Hopkins is one of the program graduates. He said, “It was a great experience! It was very educational to learn different things about HVAC systems and then to begin troubleshooting and actually working on units. When you fix something, it’s a great feeling.”

A graduate of W.J. Keenan High School, Hopkins was referred to REEMERGE by his counselor at South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Services. “Since entering the program in January, Hopkins has done everything that we have asked him to do in terms of registering with SC Works, updating his resume, attending meetings, training classes, etc.,” says REEMERGE Business Consultant Tony Lawton. Upon completion of the training program, Hopkins will begin working with a local HVAC company here in the Midlands. Over the past few weeks, he has interviewed with ASAP Heating & Air, Milton’s Heating & Air and Capital City Heating & Air. The three job interviews have resulted in two job offers! “We are excited about his employment opportunity. Eric is a talented young man who is more than deserving of a second chance,” adds Lawton.

Two of Hopkins’ classmates, Antonio Brown and Christopher Kapalka have also received job offers for Midlands area companies and are excited about what the future holds for them as well. Antonio Brown said that the program encouraged him to be more optimistic and to have a more positive outlook. Says Brown, “It made me feel good that guys like Tony and our instructor Jay, were willing to help us and to do what they said.”

Terrell Hammonds, another graduate who is currently working and on track, has even gone so far as to refer the program to others as well. “I tell other people about the program,” says Hammonds. “It has given me a second chance because it’s opened up opportunities. The things that Tony and the staff at REEMERGE have helped me with were things that I probably wouldn’t have been able to navigate on my own.” said Hammonds. Hammonds’ classmate Robert Brown has also referred others to the program. “I told my cousin to call and inquire about how to get his GED,” says Brown. I told him, ‘Hey, they helped me, maybe they can help you’,” explains Brown. This is the first training class to graduate since the program began in 2018.

The HVAC training and EPA Certification received will help them get their feet into the HVAC industry.

The graduation ceremony was held at Harbison Theatre at Midlands Technical College, 7300 College Street, Irmo, South Carolina. Just over 100 people attended. There were also seven partner agencies and organizations in attendance with exhibitor tables set up to discuss their program offerings with all of the attendees during the reception. A special thank you to the Alston Wilkes Society, Goodwill Industries of the Upstate, the Fifth Judicial Circuit Solicitor’s Office, South Carolina Department of Corrections’ Manning Re-entry and Work Release Center, South Carolina Vocational Rehabilitation Services, South Carolina Works and of course Midlands Technical College for making the evening such a memorable occasion. Additionally, our Master of Ceremony Curtis Wilson and Keynote Speaker Mayor Steve Benjamin did not disappoint!

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