Flying High Helps 40 More Careers Get Set to Soar

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Dena Brown had her STNA license in 1997, but after doing prison time for felonious assault, her record was prohibiting her from continuing to practice the career she had worked toward.

“My record was a big, big barrier,” Brown said.

On Thursday, Brown was the first STNA to accept her certificate at the Professional Development Center’s spring graduation.

Brown took the opportunity to thank her family and Flying High staff “just for the support because it was a hard road, but they didn’t let me give up.”

Flying High helped her get her record together, and if it was not for the organization, she would not be where she is now, Brown said. While going through the Flying High program, she was able to get her certificate for qualification for employment and then regain her STNA license in April.

“Here I am, doing my dream job,” Brown said. “So it helps. Flying High is very, very, very helpful, and like [Guy Coviello, president and CEO of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber] said, it was that restart button, and I appreciate it.”

Brown is now working full time, and her proud daughter, Desiree Byrd, and grandson, A’King Byrd, attended the Professional Development Center graduation to cheer her on Thursday. During the Family and Friends part of the ceremony, A’King stood up and congratulated his grandmother.

Brown was just one of 40 people who were celebrated at the event, people who overcame obstacles or mistakes and have now persevered to find better opportunities. Flying High has helped 448 individuals obtain their skilled credentials since it began.

Tyria Tuck, a graduate of the chemical dependency counseling program, said she hopes she can be a light to others like Flying High was for her.

Many graduates not only thanked Flying High, but also their fellow classmates for being there to support them on such a life-changing journey as gaining career skills.

“There is no greater day on our calendar than these graduation days,” said Jeffrey Magada, founder and executive director of Flying High. “When we see our students overcome some tremendous obstacles and do the work necessary to earn that certification so they can make careers for themselves and make their lives better, well, there’s no better day for us to celebrate.”

More than 40 people received their earned credentials in vocational tracts that included chemical dependency counseling, nursing, welding, machining and commercial truck driving.

“We can’t stop with these 40,” said Coviello, who was the keynote speaker at the event. “We have a responsibility to show others that no matter where we are in life, there is a path to success by hitting refresh.”

Coviello said Ohio is gaining jobs so fast that the worker shortage will be 750,000 by 2030. Locally, he said there are about 13,000 openings, and it is predicted to grow by 5,000 each year between 2026 and 2030. Employers are short on highly skilled workers, he said, adding if the job they accept now is not their dream job, they should stay connected to Flying High, continue to lean on their career coaches, work closely with their employers and find opportunities to upskill.

Coviello was recognized with the Eagle Award at the event. The award recognizes individuals who have made extraordinary efforts to provide opportunities for people to make their lives better and help community members work together.

Serenity Williams, 18, received her STNA through the Professional Development Center program on May 26, the same month she also graduated from high school and from YSU with an associates degree in liberal arts and science. She already works in a factory, but she does not plan to stop where she is right now. Williams plans to continue her studies until she gains her LPN, her RN and her real estate licenses.

She thanked members of the staff of Flying High, her mother for supporting her and her classmates.

“I know there are times showing up can be very difficult, but the process is never easy. The process builds character,” Williams said. “Whatever it is that you want for yourself, get up and go get it and don’t look back.”

Tajah Strickland waves to family in the back of the room after receiving her certificate through Flying High on Thursday. Behind her, from left, are Guy Coviello, president and CEO of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, and Jeffrey Magada, founder and executive director of Flying High.

Tajah Strickland said her mother is her inspiration, because even when she was working, she got her associate, her bachelor’s and her master’s degrees.

“So I say, I’m going to get up and I’m going to do something,” said Strickland, who not only just received her STNA but also intends to study further for her LPN. “So this is only the beginning.”

Coviello also challenged the graduates to become ambassadors for Flying High and their employers, helping other people to find meaningful employment and to hit that refresh button in their own lives.

The PDC operates the Job Placement Welcome Center in downtown Youngstown and in Warren, where Mahoning Valley residents can learn about immediate job opportunities from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

The PDC works with national and local employers to help meet job demand and provide local candidates with the best opportunities, while the case management services of PDC aid individuals seeking training and qualifications.

The PDC, a division of Flying High, partners with the Mahoning-Youngstown Community Action Partnership, YUMADAOP, Home for Good and the Trumbull Career & Technical Center in providing resources. Additionally, the PDC partners with the city of Youngstown’s Community Planning and Economic Development Department, the Workforce Development Board of Mahoning and Trumbull Counties, Eastgate Regional Council of Governments, Mahoning and Trumbull County Mental Health and Recovery Boards and the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.

Pictured at top: Dena Brown celebrates regaining her STNA license with her grandson, A’King Byrd.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.