Nikkia Barkley has been working since she was 15. Even when she was working in restaurants and retail stores, she had a vision of doing something different. When she got accepted to the University of Miami, she planned on studying computer engineering.
She decided to decline her admission offer when she learned she was expecting. She didn't want to take her son away from his father, and she was the caretaker for her mom, who was often sick.
Fast-forward 20 years to the end of 2018. Nikkia and her husband had four more children, and, although he was disabled with liver issues, her husband did everything he could to support the family.
After three transplants, doctors told Nikkia's husband that there was nothing more they could do. That's when Nikkia and her husband had to start talking about a possible future without him.
With the challenge of supporting her five children weighing heavily on her mind, Nikkia happened to spot a sign at the convenience store advertising for HVAC jobs. The sign said she could earn $60,000 per year.
After researching the field, Nikkia and her husband agreed this was something she could do to support the family. After all, she'd seen those commercials for Mr. Jenkins about how the world needed more female technicians, so why not her?
The job would require training and an EPA certification. When Urban League of Central Carolinas came up in her research, she decided to register for the HVAC certification program.
Meanwhile, her husband's health was failing quickly. He passed away on May 20, 2019. One of the last things he said to her was, "You're still going to your class next week, right?"
In spite of experiencing overwhelming grief, Nikkia honored her husband's wishes that she stick with her plan. Just three days after losing her husband, she started her HVAC training at Urban League. "It was a life-changing experience," she says. "I didn't know that there were so many possibilities or options out there for someone like me."
OPPORTUNITIES FOR ALL
At Urban League of Central Carolinas, possibilities and options are everything. Since 1978, the non-profit agency has worked to empower the community to attain financial stability and social justice in a global economy. Urban League serves people in need of education, skills training, career development, employment services and youth programs—all at no cost to participants.
The HVAC certification program that changed Nikkia's life is just one of the no-cost, high-quality programs offered by Urban League. There's a Highway Construction and Trades Academy, a Construction and Skilled Trade course sponsored by Duke Energy, and Central Piedmont Community College has partnered up to help provide a GED program at Urban League.
#GIVINGTUESDAYCLT KEEPS ON GIVING
Urban League just launched its newest program, a medical coding certification course. The average starting salary for medical coding careers is above a living wage, and, as demonstrated by Novant Health's partial sponsorship of this program, there is a real need for talent in the field.
Urban League of Central Carolinas raised more than $15,000 during #GivingTuesdayCLT last year—enough to help make the medical coding program possible. Generous donations helping to change lives right here in our community is what #GivingTuesdayCLT is all about.
As we get ready for this year's #GivingTuesdayCLT, let's look at how you can help Urban League of Central Carolinas today:
Help make underrepresented communities count. Urban League is planning a campaign to make sure 2020 Census forms get out to people who are at risk of going uncounted. Why is this important? Because census numbers are tied to services, and services are tied to opportunity. There are many ways you can help with this campaign. Take the first step today by contacting Community Engagement Director John Ham at John.Ham@UrbanLeagueCC.org or 704.373.2256 ext. 208.
Donate money to ensure that people have access to high-quality, no-cost training and education that can change their lives and end the cycle of poverty. Details here.
Help spread the word. The courses offered by Urban League often don't fill up, which means more people need to know about them. Find Urban League of Central Carolinas on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and show them some support.
Donate your time and talent to a special event. At the recent First Day Ready event to help get kids ready for school, Urban League offered everything from barber services to dental care. Take the first step by filling out a volunteer application.
Thanks to Urban League of Central Carolinas, Nikkia Barkley now has a Certified Pool Operator License, an EPA Universal Certification, and the tools and knowledge required to have a long and successful career. And she didn't have to go into debt to pay for her training, because it was free. Best of all, Nikkia has the peace of mind that she can support her family, and that's priceless.
Grace Kennedy is a Huntersville-based writer specializing in storytelling for nonprofits. Learn more at gracekennedy.net.