Seeking Stability after Graduation, amidst a Global Pandemic

Propel America
4 min readNov 10, 2021


Jeremiah Moy’s senior year of high school landed in the throes of the COVID-19 global pandemic, which affected his home state of Louisiana in especially devastating ways. As he prepared to graduate in May 2021 from Neville High School in Monroe, LA, Jeremiah was considering how he could take the welding experience he’d gained through a course in high school and apply it somewhere to start making money immediately after graduation. The best path forward, however, was unclear.

Within the context of the devastating health and financial impacts brought on by the pandemic — disproportionately impacting Black and Brown communities across the U.S. — Jeremiah knew he wanted to get a job immediately after high school and deferring that income to pursue a college degree was not an option.

Jeremiah Moy

That’s when his teacher, Ms. Blothe, introduced him to Propel America’s manufacturing program. “It appealed to me that it was a two month program. So I decided to do that and enrolled on June 1st,” explained Jeremiah in September, now on the other side of his training. Quite the self-starter, Jeremiah began emailing Propel’s program director at the time, Dustin Whitlock, to ensure his spot in the program, and he clearly remembers in May when he first met his Propel coach, Sydney Canfield.

“They made sure I knew what I’d have to do and that this was something I really wanted to do. It was shocking to me when Dustin told me that we were going to get paid to go to school, and I like to do hands-on stuff anyways. I was on board with the guaranteed interview.” The guaranteed interview awaiting Jeremiah at the end of his training with Propel’s employer partner, Graphic Packaging International, and the support from his coach and program director solidified Jeremiah’s desire to enroll.

As summer training began for Jeremiah’s cohort, the group — all in training for certification in manufacturing — found solace in their virtual group sessions, during a time known for social isolation. Jeremiah recalls how the group showed really strong teamwork; “we wanted to make sure we all passed.”

Throughout the training, the cohort was learning the basics of manufacturing to ensure they knew safety procedures and how to operate the necessary equipment, while also learning softer skills — communication, professionalism, interview strategy — from their coach. As Sydney explains it, “Every student needs a little extra support in a different skill. That’s what’s nice about Propel; we have the ability and time to learn and respond to what each fellow needs to be successful.”

And that model certainly paid off for Jeremiah. In August, he passed all four of his generalist manufacturing certification exams and was feeling confident heading into his interview.

“Applying for jobs is going great. I have an interview tomorrow, and they are going to want me to start the next day. I know the rest [of our cohort] have their interviews tomorrow or the next day, too. I told everyone in the group: ‘we are all going to work.’ I want us all to go to our high schools and let people know that they should do [Propel]. I didn’t believe that any program would be as good as this was.”

Jeremiah identifies as a walking testimonial of the program. And that seems spot on. In early October — just four months after his high school graduation — Jeremiah was hired at Graphic as a finishing packing specialist earning $17.50/hour. He plans to go back to school in the spring to also earn his welding certification.

“With multiple certifications,” he explains, “I can make more money and have more opportunities. I can be more reliable to people.” A stable, thriving-wage income to Jeremiah means he can fulfill what he’s always hoped to do, which is help people.

“I could see Jeremiah climbing the ladder no matter what; his drive is something he’ll never lose. He could stack mechanical, like automotive or diesel, or other kinds of manufacturing certifications. He has so many options, and he will keep getting promoted,” explains Sydney.

As Jeremiah earns a living wage on his path toward upward mobility, he continues to keep in mind his charge to the rest of his cohort to encourage others from their high schools to apply for Propel. He’s a top recruiter for incoming cohorts, as it’s inspiring to his younger peers — and to us all — what he’s already accomplished, less than six months after graduating high school, and the path he has laid out ahead of him.



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