DARKE COUNTY — County Commissioner Mike Stegall has been involved with the Taking Charge of Your Life (TCOYL) program since its inception in 2012. According to Stegall, about 70 percent of people who entered the program have gone on to either get a job, or pursue further schooling.
“It’s a very basic, elementary class that helps people who are not in the system, and gives them a few basic pointers,” Stegall said. “Things like how to create a resume, what to do in an interview, and so on. Usually it’s people who have had some issues, whether it’s drug problems, or a divorce. I don’t think there’s a program in the state that has this sort of success rate, for what we do.”
Stegall’s role in the program, he said, is minimal.
“I just try to give them some encouragement, but at the same time remind them that they haven’t really accomplished anything yet,” Stegall said. “This is just a first step, and they have to keep going from there.”
The most rewarding part of the program, Stegall said, was watching people find success, and the ability to turn their lives around.
“Somebody just called me up the other day and told me I made a difference in their life,” Stegall said. “That makes you feel good.”
The class runs four hours a day, two days a week, over the course of two weeks, according to Stegall, and is taught by a local educator named Lorie Simpson. Throughout the course, each participant develops a plan, as well as measurable goals and action plans for how to achieve it. Homework assignments are specified at the end of each session, and participants are held accountable for completing this work.
“Lorie is far and away the best teacher I’ve ever seen,” Stegall said. “What she does with these people in the space of two weeks is phenomenal.”
Simpson works as a training consultant and workforce development specialist in Piqua, and has graduated 58 classes in the TCOYL program since it started.
“In the early days, we had so many people they wouldn’t fit in the room,” Simpson said. “Since then the numbers have decreased, but so has the unemployment rate.”
Simpson said the ability to empathize with her students is the key to what makes teaching the class so rewarding.
“It’s hard to put into words what this class has meant to me,” Simpson said. “At the time of its conception, I was struggling with employment myself, so I could relate to what the participants were going through. We focus on gaining a career, not just a job. So many of the participants believe they can’t even think of this for themselves. My focus in the class is helping them understand that this is possible.”
The process starts with listening to her students, according to Simpson, and helping them realize that they already have what it takes to succeed.
“I listen with compassion and understanding. I stress that the tools are all here, but they must make the choice to change, to focus on the goal and the plan to get there,” Simpson said. “It’ll be hard work, and it won’t happen overnight.”
In the end, however, Simpson stressed that she alone cannot take credit for the program’s success.
“The Job Center employees – who, in my opinion, are some of the best people walking this Earth – the content of the class, and most importantly the participants themselves help make this program successful,” Simpson said. “It is an honor to teach this class every month. When people learn to take charge of their lives, anything is possible. Sometimes they just don’t know where to begin.”
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