WICHITA, KAN. — NexStep Alliance, the adult education partnership between Goodwill Industries of Kansas and WSU Tech, will hold an in-person commencement ceremony to honor 80 students who have earned their high school diploma on Thursday, May 27 at the Hughes Metropolitan Complex at Wichita State University.
The graduation event will mark the completion of an academic journey for students that have overcome many obstacles to walk across the stage, and for some it represents a milestone not just for them but for their families as well.
“The students we work with face a variety of different barriers,” said NexStep Alliance Director, Yamir Lozada. “Because of the nature of our program, many of them are trying to balance a job, family responsibilities, and school. They made the decision that an education is worth it — that they are worth it. They’ve made the choice to do the work, we’re just here to help them reach the finish line.”
NexStep Alliance provides GED services, English as a Second Language (ESL), digital skills training, career assistance and tuition-free college opportunities. In 2021, nearly 52% of program participants achieved a measurable skill gain, a critical measurement related to students’ improved life and employability that state and federal agencies use to determine funding.
“NexStep Alliance is just one way that Goodwill provides assistance and services to people who are facing challenges with finding employment,” said Laura Ritterbush, CEO and President for Goodwill Industries of Kansas. “When people shop in and donate to our retail stores, they are directly helping to strengthen our community. From our reentry program, NexStep Unlocked, for Kansans exiting the justice system, to our workforce development programs for individuals with developmental disabilities and the many other services we offer, we are much more than a thrift store.”
This will be Ritterbush’s first graduation ceremony since she assumed the role of CEO for Goodwill Industries of Kansas in March 2021. The event will feature guest speakers from WSU Tech and Goodwill as well as two students that will provide insight into their experience attending NexStep Alliance.
“By celebrating this accomplishment, we build on the knowledge and confidence that our students have earned, and watch them go on to reach for even greater goals,” Said Ritterbush. “I’m so excited for the graduates and what the future holds for them.”
About Goodwill Industries of Kansas, Inc.
As a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization, Goodwill Industries of Kansas provides opportunities for people with disabilities and barriers to employment seeking independent and productive lives. Hundreds of people with disabilities receive case management services and develop life and job skills through employment at Goodwill’s home office and in the community. Whether it be recycling donated items or preparing insulation for local aviation manufacturers, Goodwill clients and employees have found success and become more independent through work in our contracts division.
In addition, adults work toward their GED and other certificate programs through NexStep Alliance, a partnership between Goodwill and WSU Tech. More than 1,400 individuals receive services through Goodwill each year. These programs are supported by 18 retail stores in Kansas along with an online division at shopgoodwill.com/ks. For more information about Goodwill, visit goodwillks.org.