How do you celebrate a milestone accomplishment when you can’t be together?

For the families and friends who wanted to support the 12 men in classes 84 and 85 at Christopher Place Employment Academy, the answer was the same as it has been for so many others. You gather on Zoom.

Christopher Place Employment Academy Classes of 84 and 85

Dozens of people, including Our Daily Bread Employment Center staff, showed up for the virtual capstone, to cheer on the men who had just finished their first three months in the Christopher Place program—an intensive, residential experience that helps men transitioning from homelessness or incarceration work to overcome addiction, and learn soft and hard professional skills.

Capstones specifically acknowledge the completion of the academic portion of the program. Most of the men will continue for at least three more months, and, in some cases, much longer. 

“Y’all are like family,” one of the men said as the capstone ceremony began. Attendees leaned closer to their computers to hear him, and other gentlemen, speak about the experience they’ve had in these first 90 days. There were many words of gratitude, of being inspired, of learning about themselves and one another in this experience.

Joy online, too

For the audience, there were lots of chat messages of pride and encouragement for the men. 

Even the common Zoom hazard of a sidebar conversation over unmuted microphones seemed to bring joy amid the group, because those sidebars were often happy family members or friends seeing and checking in on each other on the screen. 

Each class participated in a symbolic group mosaic project through Art with a Heart, the Baltimore arts nonprofit whose mission aligns with Catholic Charities’ mission to improve lives, particularly through workforce development.

“It’s always been such a great pleasure to be part of your journey,” said Art with a Heart Director of Workforce Development and Social Enterprise Christina Ralls from her square on the screen. She shared that the “class of 84” completed their mosaic the day before the pandemic forced her organization’s closure, so it’s a particularly special project for her. 

The mosaics will be grouted, delivered and hung soon, so the men can be continually inspired by the beauty they created, and so that future classes can recognize that work, as well.