Welding Program Sparks New Career Path for Shelbyville Woman

Jessica Lentz was released from prison in January after serving a four-year sentence. It wasn’t the 40-year-old Shelbyville native’s first time behind bars, but she was determined to make it her last.

Tennessee Prison Outreach Ministry referred her to Goodwill Career Solutions, where she enrolled in the nonprofit’s Construction and Weatherization Training program.

“I was just hoping I’d get the skills to do a job that paid better than minimum wage — something where I could be comfortable and not fall back into my old habits,” Jessica says.

At Goodwill, Jessica learned financial literacy, resume writing and communication skills. And skills she acquired in the Construction class — such as the use of pneumatic tools, table saws and routing machines — were exactly what she needed to land a job with a Nashville cabinet-making company.

But Jessica also discovered a hidden talent and a potential career path. After completing the construction course, she signed up for Goodwill’s new Introduction to Welding course.

“It turns out I’m good at welding,” she says. “I like that you are taking raw materials and turning them into something substantial. It makes me feel productive — I’m doing something I can be proud of.”

After Jessica met a representative from the Tennessee College of Applied Technology during a seminar at Goodwill, she enrolled for the fall semester in TCAT’s welding program. A HOPE Scholarship and other funding arranged by TCAT’s Financial Aid office will cover her tuition.

Jessica now feels positive about her future and plans to get a driver’s license and an apartment.

“Goodwill gave me the tools I needed,” she says.

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