Finding Inspiration

Finding Inspiration

“This is not just some esoteric exercise, we are trying to help people.” – Mia Hart, Adult Education Program Coordinator

Not everyone is comfortable sharing their life story in front of a roomful of people. So it’s understandable that there were a few jitters as TASK adult education students stood in front of their peers recently sharing their hopes and hurdles through vision boards — a collection of motivational words and images, representing goals.

For patron Billy Thomas, 41, the immediate target is the High School Equivalency (HSE) exam. The father of two who describes his life a series of bad decisions, said he came to TASK to “work on myself,” and hopes the HSE will help him get a job working with young people. “A lot of kids out there are like me, and don’t have a mother or father to teach them anything,” Thomas said, shifting his feet nervously as he pointed to a board sparsely covered with images of children, a woman  getting her degree, and the words “making a change for the better.”
One of 55 students enrolled this semester in TASK’s Adult Education and Workplace Preparedness (AEWP) program, Thomas  presented his board as part of a beginning-of-the-year goal-setting exercise for to help students stay on track. 

Mia Hart, AEWP program coordinator, said prior resolution making was a writing exercise focused on life skills.  But after creating her own vision board at a party, she decided to change this year’s approach.

“We always want to keep it fresh,’’ said Hart, who took the helm of the 25 year-old program in July.

“I thought this would be a fun way to get them thinking about what they want their lives to look like in the future.”

Since students appear to be “really into it,” Hart said the vision boards will likely become a program staple. That would be just fine with patron Jamila Self who, with a slight bounce in her step, was clearly excited to  share her story. The Hamilton resident who works as a security guard, said she wants a future where she overcomes her fear of flying, owns a car, launches a business, falls in love and passes the HSE.

“I’m giving myself two years; I need to get this done,” Self said, drawing empathic nods from fellow students as she pointed to an oversized mock diploma in the center of her vision board. “Also, I’m starting my own online clothing business with my cousins, and I’ve been single for the last five years, so I figure I’ll look for some love in there somewhere too.”
A week before presentations, students spent three days working on their boards between regular tutoring lessons. Some took on the task alone and others, like patron Amy Barchue worked with a tutor. For the last two years, the soft-spoken native of Liberia,  has been learning English with recent lesson from volunteer tutor ???. 

“My main goal is to get a husband,” the 40-year-old  said, pointing to an image of a smiling couple on their wedding day. “Also, I want to be a lawyer and fight for justice because there is a lot of abuse going on in the world.” 

Barchue found TASK through her children’s school in Trenton. The home health aide admits she is overwhelmed by the magnitude of what she wants to do with her life. 

“I want a to do so much, I don’t know where to start,” she said as her eyes frantically darted  across her board.

The sage advice is to make the journey one step at a time, and despite the seemingly insurmountable, “stick to your goals,” Hart said.  At the end of the presentations  students are encouraged to keep their boards accessible. This is especially important when they feel they are getting off track, Hart said, emphasizing the board should be used as a sort of real life checklist.

Curious about AEWP? Email Mia Hart at