More Than Doubling Their Pay and Multiplying Their Opportunity

Propel America
4 min readNov 9, 2020


Why I’m Proud to be a Part of Our Fellows’ Journeys

By Dustin Whitlock, Ed. D, Program Director of Propel America North Louisiana

Dustin Whitlock

As an educator and a former family therapist, I know that people are always working through something — whether they’re six, or sixteen, or sixty.

I studied psychology in college and I have a master’s in family counseling. I have worked in and out of school settings as a counselor and educator. Now, I am the program director for Propel America in North Louisiana. I work with a cohort of students starting in their senior year, and then as they enter a training program and finally a strong first full-time job.

Today, our young people are going through a lot, and they are in a very different world than any of us were just a year ago. It feels more important than ever to help open doors for them. I am proud to be a part of doing that through Propel.

I joined Propel full time just this past June, and my last role before that was working in a high school where Propel’s “Core Course” was taught. Students that take this course can then apply to be Propel fellows, moving toward their training and job-application process.

I’ve been thinking about a fellow I met when I worked at Ruston High School. I was the Director of New Tech Academies at the school, but I did not know him very well yet. By his senior spring, I was already working with Propel, and so when he signed up for our Core Course, I was excited to get to know him.

Louisiana Delta Community College is a Propel America partner in North Louisiana

He did not want to go to a four-year college, but he was looking for an opportunity to learn more and get a good job quickly. Propel was that opportunity. He completed the Core Course and applied to “Specialization,” our training phase, in which he could earn his certification for a job. He chose a pathway in advanced manufacturing, which is a fast-growing field in North Louisiana. As his program director, I worked with him as he trained, at no cost to him, at Louisiana Delta Community College for his certification as a certified manufacturing generalist. Along the way, I served as a coach to him and his peers.

When I asked the professor at LDCC how our Propel fellows were doing, he said “they’re killing it. They’re doing so well,” and I could see this fellow’s confidence rise. I asked him what was different between his experience now and his experience in high school.

He said he was finally doing something he loved, that he could see a clear end goal for. He knew that the training program and the job opportunity that would follow. He felt he could focus on something that would really change his life.

In high school, he’d worked a job in general maintenance making $7.25 an hour, but when COVID-19 hit, he got laid off. He’d been using that money to help his family, and so moving toward a job that could pay more than double that old wage was critical. He finished his time at LDCC with straight As across his four courses. Now he has a job that allows him to more than double his previous pay, as well as get healthcare coverage and retirement benefits. His role is in operating complex machinery has given him an entry point into an upwardly mobile career.

It has been moving for me to watch my students and fellows grow. Propel helps young people think about the goals they want to set for themselves and how to get there, but they are the ones who do the hard work. Many fellows are going through a lot, just like so many people right now — they may face financial instability that’s been exacerbated by the pandemic, they may be working to help support their families — but they use Propel to move forward with confidence.

Even once my fellows get their good first jobs, they are not done learning, not done growing, and not done accomplishing in their careers. Through Propel, I get to officially keep coaching our fellows for the first 6 months in their jobs, while also setting them up with on-site mentors. But even after that, I plan to stay in touch. I can’t wait to see where they go from here.



Propel America

Propel America is a new way to move quickly to a job that gives you a rewarding career in healthcare