Happy Graduation! Happy Birthday! What a Happy Day!

December 5, 2019 was a day full of celebration!

Two years ago (on that date), REAL LIFE opened the doors to our Community Center, a place to provide an opportunity to anyone who desired change. And, we thought there was no better way to celebrate than with our very first graduation in the community. We have had over 20 inside of jails – Richmond City, Riverside Regional, and Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail – but this was our very first in the community!

So… you can imagine the joy when we celebrated 8 graduates who completed the REAL LIFE Program on our 2nd birthday! We have come so far since beginning in the Richmond City Jail, but more importantly so have our clients who put in the hard work towards a Thriving Life!

Just to give you some background, this graduation is specifically for completing a laundry list of items – all geared toward a Thriving Life. This includes: 

  • Completing the Real Life with REAL LIFE class and curriculum (this includes over 20 modules) — the core of REAL LIFE. If you keep up with our blogs, you’ll see a number of posts highlighting graduations at Riverside Regional Jail and Virginia Peninsula Regional Jail—this is the same material.
  • Several months of sobriety.
  • Multiple meetings with case manager
  • Progress in each of REAL LIFE’s Pillars of Service that lead toward a Thriving Life. This includes gaining meaningful employment, functioning family, community interaction, and practicing a personal faith.

And graduating from this is no easy feat! 

Pathway Navigator, Young, opened the ceremony with the message: “I’m so proud, I’ll say it out loud. Work paid off, as you all can see. It’s just the start of what you all can be… so much, we love our people so much.”

Captain Mike Bender of the Richmond Police Department also spoke on the wide-ranging impact of the program, from the individual client to the greater good of the community.

“I never in my career thought there would be a program like this,” Cpt. Bender shared.

The director and founder, Dr. Sarah Scarbrough, next introduced Cosmos Phiri, our special musical guest. Cosmos spoke about hope being “the source of everything,” before performing an original song titled “Hold On.”

There was not a dry eye! It was the perfect segway into the recognition of each graduate, congratulated by the REAL LIFE staff and presented with a certificate. 

A couple of the graduates shared personal reflections about the change they experienced because of the program.

It was evident in their words and tone how appreciative they are for the opportunity to achieve a Thriving Life. One shared that if it was not for REAL LIFE, he would be dead or in jail, “and that is no lie,” he ended with. 

Closing out the ceremony, Dr. Sarah Scarbrough took the time to acknowledge everyone in attendance who has participated, graduated, supported, and volunteered to REAL LIFE. Clients graduating doesn’t just happen on an individual level. It’s a group effort with a lot of helping hands. 

To everyone who has supported us to our 2nd birthday, we could not do this without you. Thanks is not enough. We’re changing lives together.

And, to the REAL LIFE graduates – Michelle, Elizabeth, Adrian, Jeff, AJ, Nick, and Ira –  we could not be more proud of each of you. What an amazing feat you have accomplished. This is not goodbye. Instead, we are excited to see you take the next step on your pathway to a Thriving Life! Congratulations to you all!!!