Nazareth Wilson, a Chicago resident, never imagined the second chance that the Easterseals program offering Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) classes on GetSetUp would offer him. SCSEP is a community service and work-based job training program for older Americans. Authorized by the Older Americans Act, the program provides training for low-income, unemployed seniors and access to employment assistance through American Job Centers. This program has given Nazareth the opportunity to learn new job skills and get a fresh start in his 60s.
“My past has really made me who I am today. Now I am a man of God. Before alcohol, drugs, and gangs had me trapped, and I was in and out of prison stuck in a cycle I couldn’t get out of,” said Nazareth.
In and out of foster care since he was five, it was hard for Nazareth to find role models to look up to, and like many kids, he got stuck. Now at 60, he’s spent almost 29 years of his life incarcerated. The last time he went in, cell phones were bricks, and only doctors and lawyers had them. By the time he came out, he thought the world had gone crazy as he saw everyone talking to themselves, but in reality, they were using Bluetooth headsets since everyone had a cellphone by then.
“I got a lot to learn about life, and I was rescued by the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Nazareth was heading to Easterseals with someone from his church who heard about the great work they were doing with seniors. He was 55 at the time, and it was hard for him to get a job.
“I felt like there was no hope for me to find work, but I tagged along with my friend to learn more about EasterSeals. When we got there it turned out it wasn’t for my friend,—she already had a job. It was an opportunity for me! And that was the door that opened and I was so excited.”
That was four years ago, and since then, Nazareth has worked at three different training sites. He’s passed out food and learned about storing it and dealing with vegetables. He’s trained with box packing and starting programs at the non-profits he’s worked for. He was just starting to work on a project focused on investing in people when the pandemic shut it down and with it so many of his classes.
But soon, Easterseals in Chicago partnered with GetSetUp, an online social learning community for older adults, to offer SCSEP classes virtually.
“GetSetUp has allowed me to learn about what is going on in our world today. I’m not talking about crazy things like wars but learning how to use my phone and the computer. Overall I’m improving a lot of my skills thanks to the Easterseals and GetSetUp programs.”
Work foundation classes are helping to add to Nazareth’s skills to help him find long-term employment. He’s hoping to work in a position where he can help other people. He would like to especially help warn others about the dangers of gangs, alcohol, and drugs so that he can hopefully guide young people away from some of the difficult times he faced.
“I’m happy about my life for the first time in my life,” said Nazareth, who is feeling confident.
He has the tech skills he needs to understand the world around him, and he’s getting excellent work experience and classes to help support him. While he was incarcerated, he developed diabetes, and GetSetUp classes have taught him about health and wellness so he can better manage his weight and put effort into exercising. Plus he has a lovely woman in his life, his children have forgiven him, and he is just crazy about his 38 grandchildren and 4 great-grandchildren.
“Every time I get a chance I watch GetSetUp. I love a lot of what they are offering and look forward to seeing what programs are coming up.”
GetSetUp programming goes beyond job skills and has taught him some cooking skills too which he’s really enjoyed.
“I’m also learning how to exercise and about my body and what is good to eat.”
He learned how to make - pizza from scratch, so he no longer buys them but now knows how to make a healthier version at home. Plus since a lot of the classes are focused on cooking and nutrition they have also given Nazareth insight into some of the kitchen work he does through Easterseals.
Nazareth particularly appreciates GetSetUp’s classes virtual aspect because he, like a lot of his peers in the SCSEP program, has disabilities, and virtual learning makes the classes more accessible to him.
He likes that he doesn’t have to enter the Zoom class if he doesn’t want to. Instead, he can listen, re-read the notes at his own pace, and retake a class if he needs to. This takes off a lot of the pressure of a typical classroom setting.
“GetSetUp people show you where to go and how to go. You can watch and ask your questions in the chat too and learn stuff.”
Nazareth is considering writing a book and continues to seek a full-time position, preferably where he can help others. He’s just waiting for someone to give him a chance.
“I’m happy and have lots of gratitude for these opportunities. I know who I am and when you know yourself to thyself be true. ”