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Empowering Careers

Christopher Place Employment Academy Celebrates 100thCapstone

 

By Jena Frick, CC Staff

As Randy Bland walked into Our Daily Bread Employment Center he was filled with a sense of pride and accomplishment. It was nearly 30 years ago that he made the decision to turn his life around. He became part of the very first cohort of men in Christopher Place Employment Academy, a residential program meant to secure housing and employment for men dealing with homelessness, addiction, and recent incarceration.  

“I was living in D.C. and one day I realized that enough was enough. I had no money, no home, no job, so I just started walking,” said Bland. “I walked and I walked, and I did not stop until I reached Baltimore… I had heard rumors that there was going to be a program to help men like me and I knew I needed to be part of it. I knew this would be my last chance.” 

Bland graduated as part of the inaugural class from Christopher Place in 1997 and went on to secure a job as a driver for LifeBridge Health. This year, Bland returned to Christopher Place to speak at a momentous occasion. On December 13, friends, family, and supporters gathered to celebrate the 100th cohort of graduates from Christopher Place Employment Academy.  

“To be helping people get their bearings back on life and to be able to encourage and empower the men is so rewarding,” said Nicole Williams, the program director of Christopher Place. “Being part of this 100th capstone celebration is just so amazing. It doesn’t feel like work, it’s more like a mission.” 

The capstone celebration included a special graduation ceremony for the nine men who completed the program as part of the 100th cohort. This 100th capstone celebration comes as Catholic Charities of Baltimore celebrated its centennial year marking 100 years of service across the state of Maryland.  

The event included remarks from essential staff and supporters of Christopher Place as well as two graduates who shared their stories and what this ceremony meant to them. In addition, there was a special art unveiling from Art with a Heart who helped create a mosaic to commemorate the 100th cohort of graduates. The mosaic depicted a tree with the names of Christopher Place staff in the roots and the names of the graduates in the leaves. This represented the staff nurturing the growth of the men in the program so they can flourish and grow.  

During the ceremony, Bland was featured as the keynote speaker to congratulate the graduates and talk about how the program changed his life.  

“All I can say is this,” he told them. “Life is going to be your toughest competitor, but the most important thing to remember is that is doesn’t matter how many times you get knocked down, it’s that you always keep getting back up.”