Friends, family, community members, and staff came together to celebrate the graduation of a group of young adults from the 39th Gathering and Inspiring Future Talent (GIFT) training program on March 12. The GIFT program is funded by the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health (DMH) and focuses on building communication, confidence, and community in young adults through 15 training sessions totaling 75 hours. The program assists with career development and shows individuals how they can share their stories in a way that inspires positive change. The Healthy Transitions Grant (NITT-HT) sponsors the training.
The ceremony began with welcoming remarks from DMH Northeast Area Director Susan Wing followed by opening comments from a Lead GIFT Trainer and Peer Mentor. Coach of GIFT training Dr. Kim Bisset then shared an overview of what GIFT means as well as successful employment stories of those who have graduated from the program. “GIFT graduates are working statewide, and it important to note that the graduates are not limited to Peer Mentoring or human services jobs. We support and explore the development of all talents and job possibilities of our students,” Kim explained. She is the Founder and Principal of Radiate Career Consulting and advises business and non profits. She has been implementing the GIFT training for the past six years for DMH.
Graduates then shared their comeback stories and core GIFT statements that they developed while in training. “Core GIFT is a process that helps individuals to identify and develop their strengths and then decide how they want to contribute to the community,” Kim mentioned. Amarely (Lily), a young adult Vinfen serves, was first to share her story of personal triumph. “I’m learning to communicate better and develop professional skills,” Lily stated. She has now been out of the hospital for over a year and attributes physical activity, singing, and the GIFT program for her continued progression of wellness. “I want to let you know that you are never alone in this life, and there are people who want you to be happy and succeed,” Lily concluded.
As a recent hire at Wayside Youth & Family Support Network as a Peer Mentor, Rosie was another recent graduate who shared her story. Rosie started off with letting her audience know about her mental health journey. “Depression is not just being sad when something bad happens. Depression is the aching of your heart when you have every reason to feel happy, vibrant, and free,” Rosie voiced. She spoke about the power of finding the strength of her voice and the importance of asking for help. “After going through all this I decided that I wanted to pursue a career where I can use my experience to help others who are going through similar situations in their life, so I became a Peer Mentor,” Rosie explained. Rosie truly enjoys supporting others by showing compassion and inspiring people with hope. “Working with youth makes me feel like I am being the change that I want to see in the world, and it makes me feel that things are starting to look up for people like me, who struggle with mental health challenges,” Rosie declared. She encouraged her audience that although everyone experiences struggles, we have the ability to learn from them. The important thing to remember is to keep going in life.
The final graduate speaker was Eri who started off with a poem. “GIFT has been the biggest blessing in my life. I have not always been so determined to make positive changes in my life, but things have been oh so different since I have walked through the doors of the drop in center. Having a place that believes I can do great things not in spite of my challenges but as if they were tools of hope. Kim Bisset has given me confidence in my newfound career that I never thought i would have. GIFT is a gift,” Eri proclaimed.
Once everyone presented their stories or statements, there was a brief GIFT graduation certificate ceremony, followed by cake and refreshments. The graduation was held at the YouForward Drop-In Center in Lawrence, Massachusetts. Vinfen has participated in YouForward, which is funded by a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) grant since 2014. Congratulations to all the graduates. We are incredibly proud of each of you!
There are four new GIFT training sessions in Massachusetts in the next few months. There will be one in Arlington, from March 26 to May 28 at STEPS, in Lowell from April 1 – May 31 at NILP, in Salem from June 17 – August 12 at New Liberty Innovation School, and in Lawrence from July 9 – August 27 at YouForward. If you have any question, please contact Kim directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 781-956-4848.
Pictured above is Rosie and Lily at the celebration.