Wayne Reece earned both thanks to Tidewater Community College’s Job Skills Training Program (JSTP), which held its spring commencement on Wednesday evening at the Roper Center for the Performing Arts.

Wayne ReeceHe wanted a good job and a second chance.

“I never wore one of these before,” said Reece, 47, beaming in his freshly pressed blue graduation gown. “Which way does the tassel go again?”

The Georgia native earned his GED in December and the next month enrolled in the JSTP, a comprehensive approach to job training and placement for those with barriers to employment. The JSTP partners with social service and community agencies, the business community and industry leaders to provide counseling, internships, workforce readiness and job follow-up.

“I took the culinary arts courses they had available, and it was the best thing that ever happened to me,” said Reese, as his internship cooking at Wickers’s Crab Pot Seafood in Chesapeake turned into a job.

“A job means security, and now I don’t have to depend on anybody else,” he said. “I’m not a person who likes to depend on others. And I’ve always wanted to cook.”

Reece said the bad choices that led to a 16-month incarceration that ended two years ago limited his hiring potential, leading him to the TCC program.

“It’s a program for those who have problems out there in the world,” he said. “Between my GED classes and this, I learned to do more researching. I learned to operate a computer, which I was always terrified of. I learned how to be around people and work with groups. I learned to be a team player and learned a lot about my inner self through counseling. I was a basket case before I came here.”

“He’s a wonderful example of what this program is about,” said Leslie Boughton, coordinator of the JSTP.

Reese earned one college credit by completing the program in addition to his national food service manager certification, career readiness certificate and continuing education credits.

Thirty-six others graduated with him to the delight of family and friends, many of whom brought balloons and flowers.

“During our classes, if one of us had a weak point, we all worked together to help,” Reece said. “That’s why we made it through. I recommend this program to anyone who doesn’t think they have a chance.”