Xavier Mission, a nonprofit organization founded by St. Francis Xavier church in New York City which works to serve homeless individuals and families, recently celebrated the graduation of their 37th class of the Life-Skills Training and Empowerment Program (L-STEP). Below is a reflection from the evening by Cassandra L. Agredo, the executive director of Xavier Mission, and Hope Eisdorfer, the L-STEP and Coming Home program director.
On Tuesday, June 10, the thirty-seventh class of the Life-Skills Training and Empowerment Program (L-STEP) at Xavier Mission graduated from the program at a beautiful and powerful ceremony. Surrounded by friends, family, and members of the Xavier community, the six graduates–all of whom had experienced homelessness along with other significant traumas–were honored for their tremendous accomplishments throughout the semester. The ceremony began with a prayer and a candle-lighting ceremony, representing the unity and family that was created in the group, as their candles joined together to create one flame. It ended with the group’s unofficial theme song, James Brown’s “I Got You (I Feel Good)”, which they sang at the closing of every session during the semester.
In the most inspiring and moving piece of the ceremony, the graduates shared their stories of struggle, trauma, resilience, determination, courage and change. They described the growth they experienced through L-STEP: the healing process of telling their stories, a new found ability to set and achieve goals, the skills acquired from relevant Life Skills workshops, and the positive support system created by their peers, group facilitators and mentors. After the graduates completed their stories they were awarded Certificates of Achievement by their mentors in recognition of their many accomplishments throughout the rigorous 14 week program. The graduates were inducted into the ever-growing L-STEP Alumni Network, where they will continue to work towards achieving their goals and grow in a supportive, loving, and caring family.