It’s 9:06 a.m. on day five of The WorkFaith Connection’s eight-day, early June boot camp. Twelve people ranging in age from 25 to 59 sit around a U-shaped table in a corporate office building. Seven are men, five are women. Eight are black, four are white. All are looking for work.

Most are not confident that they’ll get jobs, so instructor Fran Hopkins, a former deputy warden at a state prison, asks for stories about when they’ve succeeded in previous jobs. It’s all part of a six-year-old Christian project to improve the job-hunting skills of ex-prisoners and others among America’s least-employables.

And here’s what is spectacular: Three-fourths of the 1,560 WorkFaith alumni have snagged jobs soon after graduating from boot camp, with two-thirds of those continuing in that job for at least a year. That achievement makes WorkFaith our 2012 South region Effective Compassion winner.

A big reason for job placement success, according to WorkFaith CEO Sandy Schultz, is that “they shift from an attitude of entitlement: ‘What can you do for me?’ becomes ‘What can I do for you?'” So on day five the class members recall what they did for previous employers. Myisha Powell emphasizes her time as a medical assistant. Kathi Lakey, unemployed for seven years, talks about how she unjammed a photocopier. Larry Bridgewater, who spent two years in prison for drug possession, recalls a successful meeting with building contractors. Each time the class applauds.

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