Graduations 2018: It Doesn't End Here

Jul 04, 2018

In a room filled with 75 people communally punctuating a graduation ceremony with joyful whoops, thunderous ovations, and raucous laughter, it was perhaps the small pockets of silence that spoke the loudest about the magnitude of the event.

The attendees had gathered for a mahafali—Swahili for graduation—at which a dozen graduates of Central City Concern’s (CCC) Imani Center program would be recognized. The Imani Center provides culturally responsive Afrocentric approaches to substance use disorder treatment and mental health counseling, connecting clients to the wider Black recovery community in Portland, Ore. The family members, friends and staff members from across CCC who were there had every reason to be in the mood to celebrate those being honored.

Graduates of the Imani Center program expressed great joy and gratitude to their counselors, as well as their friends, family, and peers who attended the graduation ceremony.

Imani Center counselors called up their graduating clients one by one, sharing words about their journey together and offering words of pride, insight and encouragement. Each graduate met and hugged their counselor, awash in the sound of applause. They received their certificate, tucked in a sturdy, handsome red or blue folder. The applause petered out.

Then… quiet.

For some graduates, no more than a second. For some others, maybe it was 10. But the silence wasn’t just an absence of sound; it was the incoming rush of a feeling.

Graduates used that time to glance down at their certificate, tracing their eyes over the words that confirmed that they had indeed taken a major step forward in the recovery: Certificate of Completion... Presented to... Has Successfully Completed.

They had not only started their journeys of recovery; they’d taken monumental steps forward on the path, and they were still on it that day.

One graduate, after she had collected herself, said, “I didn’t really think I’d graduate the mental health program. A year ago I was hearing voices. I’m so proud of myself. This is a step up. It’s been such a long time since I’ve accomplished anything positive.”

“We don’t need drugs. We got people. We got each other, even with our mental struggles.”

Another looked up from her certificate and scanned the packed community room, finding a reminder of the community effort that got her to this day. “We don’t need drugs,” she said. “We got people. We got each other, even with our mental struggles.”

The Imani Center is an exceptionally tailored program that uses a model of substance use disorder and mental health treatment developed to account for the Black community’s unique assets, culture, traumas and experiences. As such, Linda Hudson, CCC’s director of African-American services, closed the mahafali with words that spoke to the community’s ties that helped the graduates reach this moment and dream hopefully in their own futures.

“Imani is building a village to support our community. Find somebody coming up behind you and pull them up with you. It doesn’t end here.”



Graduations 2018: Continuing to Strive

Jul 03, 2018

“Continue to strive. It will help you get the things you want and get you where you want to be.”

These words, spoken by Central City Concern’s (CCC) Chief Human Resources Officer Joe Chapman, set the tone for the fifth annual CCC Employee Commencement. The celebration honored nine graduates (listed below) who received diplomas ranging from master’s degrees to counseling certificates.

Walter Bailey, a peer support specialist at CCC’s Imani Center since 2015, received his certification as an alcohol and drug counselor (CADC I). He shared his story with the group: “I thought being an athlete would be my entire life,” he said. “But the special privilege of working for CCC is amazing. I love watching people change their lives.”

Walter Bailey earned his CADC I certificate. He shared his story of having to recalibrate his future plans after his time as an athlete came to a close.     Mayra Hernandez of CCC's Employment Access Center receives her recognition certificate for earning her Master of Social Work from Portland State University.

CCC also acknowledged 16 recipients of higher education scholarships for CCC employees who are engaging in job-related studies to further or broaden their professional development. Jennifer McBratney, foundation scholarship program officer at Portland Community College, was the keynote speaker. She congratulated all the employees who attend classes in addition to working. “You believe in the mission so much but you’re also taking time to improve yourselves,” she said. McBratney also congratulated the agency for their commitment to employees who want to learn. “CCC is a beacon for the community.”

The new grads received a special CCC certificate and a commemorative cord. After the ceremony, the grads, scholarship recipients and their guests shared cake and congratulations—and basked in the words of Joe Chapman: “You’re amazing.”

2018 Graduates

Congratulations to all of our graduates!

  • Walter Bailey (Imani Center): Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor I, Addiction Counselor Certification Board of Oregon
  • Jennifer Benjamin (Housing Administration): Bachelor of Science in Liberal Arts Studies, Portland State University
  • Tyanna Benson (Old Town Recovery Center): Master of Social Work, Portland State University
  • Kascadare Causeya (Benefits and Enrollment Specialist Team): Master of Business Administration, Aspen University
  • Mayra Hernandez (Employment Access Center): Master of Social Work, Portland State University
  • Dana M. Jones (Old Town Recovery Center): Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse Practitioner, Gonzaga University
  • Lisa King (Hooper Detoxification Stabilization Center): Bachelor of Arts in Social Science, Portland State University
  • Ryan Meristem (CCC Recovery Center): Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor II, Addiction Counselor Certification Board of Oregon
  • Eric Oswald (CCC Recovery Center): Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor II, Addiction Counselor Certification Board of Oregon