Success Stories - Goodwill Industries of New Jersey and Philadelphia

At Goodwill, every donation changes lives. We use the proceeds from donated items to fund Goodwill’s job training programs and career services for individuals facing barriers to employment. Our goal is to end the need for charity by providing long-term solutions, not handouts. Thousands of success stories prove the difference we make, one life at a time.

Meet 33 -year-old Nary…

I dropped out of high school in 9th grade. I struggled interacting with other students and had low self-esteem and behavioral problems. But after working cashier, quality control and packing jobs for many years, I realized I wanted a career with better pay.

Just six weeks after giving birth to my sixth child, I enrolled in Goodwill’s Helms Academy to earn my high school diploma once and for all. It was a hectic time to say the least. I would drop my older kids at school and leave my newborn home with my partner until it was time for him to go to work. On days when I couldn’t get to the classroom, I took advantage of Goodwill’s virtual learning component. I stayed focused and determined and I earned my diploma!

Next, I have my sights set on pharmacy technician training. In the words of Mallika Tripathi, “Success only comes to those who dare to attempt.” I plan to keep my learning streak going!

Nary, Helms Academy Graduate

A native of Afghanistan, Shukria came to Goodwill looking for a job. She got that and much more.

Shukria was hired as a Customer Service Associate in a Goodwill retail store. Her responsibilities include putting away merchandise, tidying up the sales floor, and assisting with barcoding. A fast learner and hard worker, Shukria graduated high school in Afghanistan at the ripe age of 16! Yet she was very nervous and self-conscious about her communication skills on the job. A store manager suggested that she take advantage of Goodwill’s free English as a Second Language (ESL) program offered at the Helms Academy.

Seven months into this program, Shukria has dramatically increased her communication skills which, in turn, has boosted her self-confidence. For her amazing efforts, she was recently honored with a Student of the Month Award. “I want to be the very best version of myself using my new skills in reading, writing and communication on the job and beyond,” said Shukria.

Shukria, ESL Graduate at Helms Academy

I dropped out of high school when I was 16 years old.

 I wanted to help my single mom care for my three younger siblings. Since then, I have worked many jobs from painting and cooking to transporting furniture. But my instincts always told me there were bigger opportunities out there. I feel so fortunate to have found Goodwill. Nearly three decades after leaving high school, I recently earned my high school diploma at Goodwill’s Helms Academy. I am proof, that at age 52, it is never too late to go back to school to finish what you started. Goodwill helped move me from under a rock. I plan to continue my education to become a certified medical assistant. 

Kevin, Helms Academy Graduate

I was only 17 years old when I sustained a C5/C6 Spinal Cord Injury due to a fall. 

Between my medical issues and extensive rehabilitation, schooling became a challenge and I had to discontinue attending. However, I always knew the importance of an education and never lost sight of wanting to earn my high school diploma. My goal was to ultimately attend college and secure employment in the field of tech and coding. 

With the support and encouragement of my friends and therapists, I enrolled in Goodwill’s Helms Academy in Philadelphia. Their flexible program assists adults wanting to earn their high school diploma at any age. I experienced some challenging days, but never gave up. My hard work and determination paid off! At the Academy’s recent commencement ceremony, I proudly donned my blue cap and gown and was awarded the Student of the Year Award for my hard work, persistence, and my refusal to let circumstances define my capabilities. Next up– Community College of Philadelphia’s Computer Science and IT Program. I couldn’t have done any of this without Goodwill’s Helms Academy. Thank YOU for helping me get on the path to an even brighter future.

Erica, Helms Academy Graduate

Ahmad is proof that dreams do come true if you pursue them.

When I first enrolled in Goodwill’s Helms Academy, I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it through the rigorous academic program. I had been away from school for so many years! Having spent some time in the Center for Literacy program, I knew it would take a lot of hard work. It was the teaching and patience shown by Goodwill’s staff that propelled me forward. After failing my HISET exam a few times, they picked me up and encouraged me to keep going. So, I listened to them. I studied really hard and finally passed all five subject tests. In June, I earned my high school diploma. It was a dream come true! It doesn’t stop here. Currently, I am enrolled in a community college where I am focusing on my favorite subject—accounting. Goodwill’s Helms Academy played an awesome role in helping, supporting and encouraging me to achieve my goals. Thank YOU for helping make this milestone in my life happen. 

Ahmad, Helms Academy Graduate

When I was a freshman in high school, I was diagnosed with AET (Atrial Ectopic Tachycardia), which is a rare heart arrhythmia. 

Because of this, I missed a lot of school and developed severe anxiety. Rather than stay back a year, I dropped out of high school at age 16.

I found work throughout the years that got me by. But when I became a father a year ago, I aspired for more. I heard about Goodwill’s Helms Academy from a friend who recently earned his high school diploma there. Wanting to be a role model for my son, I quickly enrolled. 

The biggest challenges I faced were believing in myself and finding the time to invest in my studies. I took one day at a time, one lesson at a time. The staff at Goodwill was so encouraging every step of the way. 

I am proud to say, I now hold a high school diploma and it feels great! I am continuing to work towards my bachelor’s degree to pursue my dream of becoming a police officer, specifically a state trooper.

Luis, Helms Academy Graduate

I became a single mom at age 15. 

When my son was born, he weighed less than two pounds and was just 12 inches long! There were some very scary days but he beat the odds. He required care 24/7. My son was eventually diagnosed with cerebral palsy and became wheelchair bound. Naturally, I sacrificed everything I ever aspired to be for him. While he had a ten percent chance of surviving, I am happy to report he is now 18 years old with three siblings.

It was during the pandemic that I had time to reflect on my life and my dreams. I had a busy life taking care of my family and health issues of my own, but my family encouraged me to finish what I had started. I enrolled in Goodwill’s Helms Academy to obtain my high school diploma. I set aside two days a week to attend in person classes where I got phenomenal support from staff members. 

I worked hard and experienced ups and downs along the way…but I did it! I passed all sections of the HiSet exam and earned my diploma at the same time as my now 18-year-old son got his!  I then went on to school to become a certified eyelash artist. I am thriving in my new career and feel truly grateful and blessed to have found Goodwill’s Helms Academy where anything is possible! 

Miriam, Helms Academy Graduate

I finally said YES! Yes to earning my high school diploma, that is, and to becoming a role model to my sons. 

While I’ve held many jobs since leaving high school—from management at Burger King and White Castle to an overnight job at Target and working in a ShopRite bakery, I always yearned for more. To get there, I knew I needed to earn my diploma so I enrolled in Goodwill’s Helms Academy. During my time in this adult education program, I had many obstacles to overcome in my personal life and very little self-confidence. But I pushed through… 

Today, with my high school diploma in hand, I feel so much better about myself. I am eager to change my career direction and to do something that my family will be proud of. Many thanks to Goodwill’s Helms Academy for giving me the opportunity to better myself.  

Andrea, Helms Academy Graduate

Born and raised in Haiti to a family of three, Denilson’s early life was marked by academic excellence and unwavering ambition.

However, when the climate in Haiti became increasingly unstable, Denilson found himself compelled to set aside his academic pursuits to take on the responsibility of providing for his family. He embraced the challenges that accompanied working full-time amidst the tumultuous circumstances.

After multiple hurricanes, disease outbreaks like cholera, and political unrest, he eventually fled his homeland. Despite lacking higher education, Denilson acquired valuable skills through professional schools and seminars, ranging from civil engineering techniques to tiling, bar catering, and cashiering.

In July 2023, Denilson arrived in the United States seeking refuge. Denilson, his big sister, and brother-in-law enrolled in a free English Second Language (ESL) program at Helms Academy. Guided by Ms. Cadence, he not only improved his English but also found support beyond the classroom. Ms. Cadence played a pivotal role in connecting Denilson with his first job as a Warehouse Helper at Goodwill Industries of Southern NJ and Philadelphia. Reflecting on the experience, Denilson expressed gratitude, saying, “The employees were immediately kind and patient with me. It was a very beautiful experience for me.”

Denilson, ESL Graduate at Helms Academy