Trade-skills program gives second chance to young adults in Philly

Matteo Iadonisi Image
Friday, May 27, 2022
Trade-skills program gives second chance to young adults in Philly
When Wilson Rivera left high school and went down the wrong path, Project WOW turned everything around.

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- "I just really wasn't interested in school," said Wilson Rivera. "You know, it just didn't catch my eye. I just didn't have a passion for it."

Rivera, 25, grew up in Northeast Philadelphia as a student-athlete but never finished high school.

"I failed by one point," he said. "And I ended up going down the wrong path, getting arrested eventually after high school."

Rivera picked up bad habits to support himself with no education or career in sight. But everything changed when he learned he would soon become a father.

"I was like, my daughter needs me," he said. "You know, my family needs me."

Rivera learned about Project WOW, which is a free program supported by JEVS Human Services that reintroduces young adults like him into a "World of Work." For the last 17 years, it has changed lives by steering Philadelphians towards the trades.

"They get their high school diplomas or GEDs and then they also get career readiness preparation, do mock interviews, and they also get their jobs, right," said Program Director Sylvia Ocasio. "So, we provide employment opportunities for them."

Project WOW is housed within Orleans Technical College in Northeast Philadelphia. There, students learn trades like carpentry, plumbing, electrical engineering, and more. It's also where Wilson Rivera recently visited to speak to the next generation of students.

"It's good to look back on it because where would my life be if I didn't decide to, you know, make the right decision," he said. "You can be a lot more than who you are if you believe in yourself."

To learn more about Project WOW, visit their website.

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