Flying High Graduates Get Second Chance at Life

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — Flying High, a nonprofit dedicated to bettering the lives of people looking to develop their potential, is growing and expanding.

Flying High’s Professional Development Center graduated 41 students Thursday. The organization offers programs in welding and machining, as well as certifications for state tested nursing aides (STNA) and chemical dependency counselor assistants (CDCA). Students are also able to enroll to complete a GED.

In the last few years, because of the pandemic, Flying High saw a dip in enrollment rates. PDC admissions coordinator Donna Magada says the numbers are coming up again.

“There’s so many opportunities in the Valley right now. We want people to come through. We try to get the word out [about Flying High] by having our staff go out into the community,” Magada says.

Admissions coordinator Donna Magada congratulates the graduates of Flying High’s Professional Development Center.

The students who complete the training are often placed into jobs while they are still in school, if not immediately after graduation.

Jose Martinez, a graduate of the welding program, delivered a commencement address at Thursday’s ceremony. He is not the typical student at Flying High.

Martinez graduated from high school last year and learned of Flying High from his godparents. He wanted to take a non-traditional route and attend trade school rather than complete a program at a university.

“After 15 weeks in [the welding program], I am employed. I’m 19 with no debt,” Martinez says.

Students of Flying High have financial aid available to them to complete their programs with little to no debt. All students qualify for tuition assistance; several scholarships and grants also are available.

Many of the students at Flying High are seeking a second chance on life after overcoming addiction or spending time in prison.

“We see [the students] work hard and take advantage of the opportunities that Flying High has to offer,” said founder and school director Jeff Magada during his address to the graduates and their families.

Terry Lister, a graduate of the chemical dependency counselor assistant program, is in recovery after 40 years of addiction. He says the program and staff at Flying High helped him overcome a lot in his life, including getting his drivers license back after 10 years of not having one due to court warrants.

“I drive now. I am employed. I’ve gone through the Working Toward Your Future program at Flying High, and I’m working at St. Vincent de Paul in Warren,” Lister said.

Lister’s mother told him his purpose in life is now to help others struggling with addiction, which is what he has been doing this past year.

“It feels awesome to give back to others,” he said.

In addition to training programs, Flying High has resources that are developed to stop the shortage of fresh food options for people who live in the city of Youngstown.

“We have a lot of really exciting things going on here at Flying High. We are excited to partner with ACTION to bring forth our mobile market,” said Karen Kennedy, the PDC Welcome Center Director at the new Trumbull location.

The Mobile Market is a refrigerated truck that goes out to different locations around the city on Tuesdays and Thursdays to provide residents with the ability to buy “vegetables, fruit, eggs, bread or whatever else [they] may need,” Kennedy said.

The partnership allowed Flying High to host a market in the Federal Plaza building Friday to provide people living in the area with the chance to buy fresh produce.

“Flying High and Action have partnered to address the issue of food insecurity in Youngstown. A lot of people don’t have access to fresh fruit and vegetables and we try to make sure it is available and that people in the city have access to it,” Kennedy said.

Pictured at top: CDCA graduate Angela DeGeorge gives a speech while Flying High staff watches.

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.