Jul 13, 2022, 11:13 ET
Goodwill Industries International Names Joseph "Wes" Sawyer its 2022 Graduate of the Year
ROCKVILLE, Md., July 13, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- Joseph "Wes" Sawyer grew up in an area where gang activity, drug use and crime were high. Without positive role models or alternate roads to take, he started down the only path he knew. He tried making a move from California to Washington state to escape the violence, but his life of crime and destruction continued, leading to his first stint in prison. It wouldn't be the only time he landed in jail.
Sawyer's true wakeup call came when he faced a medical emergency — open heart surgery — for the second time in his life. That's when doctors told Sawyer that he had a choice to make: stay his current course and confront an early death or make changes for better health and a brighter future for himself and his family. Sawyer chose change. As a result of that decision, Goodwill Industries International is honoring him as its 2022 Kenneth Shaw Graduate of the Year. The award was announced during Goodwill's annual meeting in Toronto, Canada on July 12.
Once Sawyer decided to live, the real work began. And it would not be easy. There were felonies on his record and large gaps in his work history standing in his way of landing the jobs available in his community.
Through the Washington Department of Vocational Rehabilitation, Sawyer discovered that Goodwill Industries of the Inland Northwest offers work experience and training for people who have been involved with the criminal justice system. In addition to his criminal history, Sawyer lacked work experience and had also suffered a traumatic brain injury. He entered Goodwill's In-House Training and Assessment program with an interest in gaining skills and long-term employment. During the two-month program, he never missed a shift, met the standards for the work, and fostered relationships with other participants, the store staff and his assessment team. His hard work paid off as he was offered a full-time position with Goodwill. Sawyer was employed by Goodwill for three years and received several promotions, beginning in production and working his way up to facility lead, a role that serves as part of the store's leadership team.
"Wes exemplifies the strength and commitment needed to improve a life through learning and work. His resolve led him to providing a future for himself and his family and to becoming a contributing member in his community," said Steven C. Preston, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries International. "Through Goodwill, he learned valuable skills and gained a solid work history that makes it possible for him to grow and lead in other professions as well. That is our hope for everyone who walks through our doors for workforce training."
Sawyer's determination and willingness to learn has set him on a fulfilling path and allows him to set a positive example for others.
Clark Brekke, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of the Inland Northwest, said, "Wes is honest and earnest. He is very introspective. He looks at himself to evaluate everything and to validate himself. That rubs off on the people around him. He does this in such a marvelous way that it is inspiring, and it motivates people around him to become the best versions of themselves. We have watched Wes become motivated to be the best version of himself."
It was this motivation — and the skills that Sawyer learned at Goodwill — that gave him the confidence to apply for a job through a local labor union. He took a leap in 2020 and became a construction labor apprentice, which led to another job with an even bigger company, WM Winkler. His current employer provides medical benefits and an increased income to help support his growing family, including a daughter who was born recently and his son. The stability of work has also made it possible for him to reunite with his eldest daughter, who was adopted when Sawyer was involved with gangs and in and out of prison. He and his wife recently bought their first home, and Sawyer continues to be an advocate for Goodwill and its programs.
"So many areas of my life are connected to Goodwill and its programs," Sawyer said. "I am Goodwill and always will be. I love that Goodwill gave me a hand up not a handout; that I learned how to work and become independent."
About the Award: The Goodwill Industries International Kenneth Shaw Graduate of the Year award recognizes an outstanding person with a disability or disadvantaging condition who completed a Goodwill career services program and is competitively employed by a non-Goodwill employer.
ABOUT GOODWILL INDUSTRIES INTERNATIONAL
Industries International is a network of 155 community-based, autonomous organizations in the United States and Canada with a presence in 12 other countries. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit that helps people find employment, Goodwill is recognized with GuideStar's highest rating, the Platinum Seal of Approval.
Local Goodwill organizations offer employment opportunities, job placement and training services, and other community-based programs, which are funded by selling donated clothing and household items in nearly 3,300 stores and online at ShopGoodwill.com®.
For more information or to find a Goodwill location near you, visit goodwill.org. Follow us on Twitter: @GoodwillIntl and @GoodwillCapHill, and find us on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube: GoodwillIntl. Register for our Legislative Action Center via advocate.goodwill.org.
SOURCE Goodwill Industries International
Share this article