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Finding Power & Purpose

“Tired of trying to make ends meet? Stressed about providing for your children? Unsure about your purpose in life?”

Those are the questions posed to attendees of Power of Purpose, a three-part workshop series presented through a partnership of Ramsey County Workforce Solutions, YWCA St. Paul’s YW Works program and local musician/artist and people-builder Jamela Pettiford. They are questions many people struggle with, but are even more difficult for individuals and families facing barriers of significant racial and gender inequities and histories of trauma. 

“It works because it’s down to earth; she says what you think,” Camille Lewis, YW Works Employment Counselor, said of Pettiford. “[We] get them out of this survivalist, surviving for today mode and really start thinking toward the future. It makes them take a long look at themselves, then flips it and makes them accountable. Accountability is one thing that really works.” 

In its fourth year, the Power of Purpose workshops discuss the life-changing impact of finding your purpose. The workshops are facilitated by Pettiford, who has a background in education, behavioral science and employment counseling. At each session, she provides group motivation, direction on goal setting and soft skills training. The goal is to enhance participants’ coping skills and increase their knowledge of how to effectively manage life situations that impact their ability to obtain and maintain employment. 

“With the right combination of motivation and work and accountability, people can really live their best life.”

—Jamela Pettiford

“With the right combination of motivation and work and accountability, people can really live their best life,” Pettiford said. “Oftentimes there is this looming understanding of all of the messages that come into our world: that you’re not good enough, that you were born this way and you’ll die this way…All of these outlying factors become your outline for your life.” 

Pettiford agrees that accountability is a major factor in workshop participants’ success. After starting to move beyond the life narrative they’re accustomed to, the next step is creating a new narrative. 

“To me, the power of purpose is, can you create your own definition of your life outside of the circumstances that you might have been handed?” Pettiford said. “Can you create a new outline? Can you create a new understanding, a new knowing? The power part is you now have to activate that knowing, you now have the ability and the capability to say ‘OK, I can paint the picture, my life is a blank canvas, I can start all over again and I can recreate this narrative.’” These workshops complement the job skills training offered by YWCA St. Paul’s Career Pathways program, which provides a full spectrum of job-readiness preparation through the support of ongoing case management and training for in-demand jobs. Participants leave with new credentials to help them maintain employment or move from government assistance to independence. 

Power of Purpose is one of many culturally specific workshops offered throughout the year by the YW Works program. In 2017, the program offered more than 200 hours of programming through more than 80 workshops.