Graduates of Flying High Programs Make the Grade

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Dana Dreyling had a career before the pandemic. But when the world shut down and with a lot of unemployment money in his pocket, he turned to alcohol and drugs to fill the time.

“I came to Youngstown homeless, purposeless and in the shadow of death,” Dreyling told graduates of the Professional Development Center, a division of Flying High Inc., on Thursday.

Dreyling says when the money ran out, he was unemployable. His mother drove him five hours from Cincinnati and dropped him in the parking lot of the New Day Recovery Center.

Dreyling says while he was in recovery, he heard about Flying High from Adam D’Apolito, a member of the staff.

“I made a commitment to myself that I was going to utilize what [Flying High] had and put work into this just like I was putting work into destroying myself. I decided to put everything I had into doing good, and the payoff is priceless,” Dreyling said.

Dreyling said he read his mother his graduation speech over the phone Thursday, and she cried tears of happiness.

Dreyling has been sober since Oct. 6, 2022.

To get there, he took advantage of several programs through Flying High, including the outpatient program and nutrition class. He lived in Flying High’s Eagle’s Nest Recovery Housing and worked with the Mahoning Valley Mobile Market. He got a sponsor.

He also says he was blessed with help from so many other community resources – the Rescue Mission of the Mahoning Valley, the St. Vincent de Paul soup kitchen, Dorothy Day House, the Fifth Avenue Community Church soup kitchen, WRTA and Catholic Charities.

“It was tough, and going back to old habits seemed easier, but I kept showing up and I made a commitment to myself to utilize what Flying High teaches into my new life,” Dreyling said, adding it was a tumultuous journey but a good one.

When the new year begins, he will be helping as one of the instructors for the third-year apprentices at Local Pipefitters 396, where he is a member. He has received four pipe welding certifications and works at the Cleveland Cliffs Coke Plant in Warren. He is no longer homeless and has an apartment near Wick Park. He’s a baptized member of the Fifth Avenue Community Church.

“My struggles have turned into purpose, strength and compassion and much more,” he said. “My life has taken on a new meaning, and I don’t abuse my life, body and spirit anymore. I enrich it.”

Dreyling was not the only one counting his blessings at the Professional Development Center graduation, where 39 people were celebrated after earning 42 credentials in vocational tracks, including chemical dependency counseling, nursing, welding, barber training and commercial truck driving. The program welcomes anyone at its Job Placement Welcome Centers at 6 W. Federal St. in Youngstown and 237 Main Ave. SW in Warren.

Austin Ruminski says he spent more than 10 years addicted, unable to hold down a job, had lost contact with his son and was slowly losing his family.

“I was completely lost and broken,” Ruminski said, noting he then heard from D’Apolito about the Flying High program. “It became one of the best opportunities in my life.”

Tim Hipkins and HollyAnn Williams, the welding instructors, saw the potential in him, and Hipkins stayed on his case all the time, Ruminski says. Now he has a good welding job at Livi Steel that he both enjoys and allows him to grow. He has gotten back his license and his son. His brother attended the graduation.

“I know deep down inside me that I’m not a failure anymore,” Ruminski says, adding someday when his son comes to him with a problem, he will be able to give him advice from the help he received through Flying High.

Rachel Ware, an STNA graduate of Professional Development Center, says she once believed she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth, but someone stole it. Now she knows she is right where she is supposed to be.

STNA graduate Rachel Ware says she was a divorced mother of four who struggled to support her family as a medical support specialist.

“In my mind, I was born with a silver spoon in my mouth, and someone stole it,” Ware quipped. “Because I was so young, I couldn’t identify it, but I just knew someday I would come across that silver spoon and know it was my silver spoon.”

Ware says the more she struggled financially, she fell into a deep depression. Her children grew up, and she decided at some point she had to get her life together. She started a housekeeping business that failed, and then started cleaning out abandoned houses with her son to keep him busy as he battled addiction. He eventually lost.

Ware began caring full time for a sick uncle, her grandmother and then her mother as they aged.

She thought it was too late for her to learn something new, but now she knows she is right where she needs to be.

“I actually feel like my full-circle moment is here, from where I started till now. I see my dreams coming to fruition, and I do see a better life for myself. And I just want everybody to remember you are your own author of your story. What will your next chapter be?”

Throughout the PDC graduation event, many came to the podium and thanked not only the Flying High staff but their peers in the program for supporting them through it.

“I feel like you are my family now,” Ware said. “You are my sisters. You are beautiful and intelligent young women, and I love you all.”

The Rev. Dr. Gary L. Frost, the Professional Development Center graduation keynote speaker and Eagle Award recipient, reminded graduates of the importance of using their blessings to help others.

When he took the podium, the Rev. Dr. Gary L. Frost encouraged the graduates to continue their journeys, give back to each other and touch the lives of others.

“Your assignment is to touch someone else’s life,” Frost said. “This can’t stop with you. You’ve got to reach out. If you’ve just touched one more person’s life in this world, you’ve made a difference.”

A 1972 graduate of East High School, Frost has served in the ministry both locally and in New York City. He shared stories of his travels to Africa, where he says annual visits keep him grounded with the knowledge of just how blessed Americans are in this country.

Frost was the recipient of the Eagle Award, which honors those who have made extraordinary efforts to provide opportunities for people to make their lives better and help community members work together.

Pictured at top: Dana Dreyling, who was dropped off in Youngstown by his mother for help, found it at Flying High Inc. and other organizations in the Mahoning Valley. He is now a member of Local Pipefitters 396 and will be instructing apprentice welders to start 2024.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.