NEW YORK, NY, MARCH 24, 2017–The Doe Fund held its annual graduation ceremony on March 23 at Church of St. Ignatius Loyola in Manhattan. More than 150 formerly incarcerated and homeless men celebrated their completion of Ready, Willing & Able, The Doe Fund’s year-long program of job training, personal development, and paid work.
Family and friends cheered as the graduates walked across stage in blue caps and gowns to accept their graduation certificates. Several speakers also took to the stage, including Doe Fund Founder and President George McDonald, Ready, Willing & Able alumnus Joseph Calhoun, and Valedictorian Albert Bell. A jubilant cap toss ended the formal ceremony, before graduates and their families enjoyed refreshments prepared by The Doe Fund’s Culinary Arts team.
George McDonald, Founder and President of The Doe Fund, addressed the graduates, saying, “Your diploma doesn’t just represent the end of your time in this program. It represents the beginning of your new life. Today, you have done a generation’s worth of Men in Blue before you so very proud. You have lived up to their legacy, and this evening, you have created your own. You have reached up and grabbed onto the first rung of the economic ladder. You’ve proven that nothing and no one can keep you from the success you’ve worked for.”
Valedictorian Albert Bell reflected on his life before joining The Doe Fund, saying, “When I look back now, I see that I spent so much time doing the same things, going back to the same streets, committing the same crimes, running in circles and going nowhere.” He continued, “But now it’s all about the long road ahead of me. I know it will carry me, because it’s built on a solid foundation and paved with optimism, thanks to Ready, Willing & Able.”
For twenty-seven years, Ready, Willing & Able has helped transition more than 23,000 formerly incarcerated and homeless men back to their families and communities as contributing members of society. Many New Yorkers recognize the Men in Blue of Ready, Willing & Able from the distinctive blue uniforms they wear while cleaning streets and sidewalks through the city. Street cleaning is the first phase of the program, followed by career training and educational opportunities. Trainees are eligible to graduate from the program once they have secured independent housing and full-time, private sector employment.