Celebrating Five Remarkable Years: RW2 CTE’s Journey of Empowerment and Innovation

Samraje Rana, Lead CADD and Revit/BIM Instructor, Precious Felton, RW2 Alumni, Martin Arling, KAW Valley Engineering, and Dr. Joy Vann-Hamilton, RW2 Founder and CEO. 2019

As RW2 celebrates its 5th Year Anniversary, we reflect on our journey of empowerment and innovation. It has been an incredible five years since the first class was held April 19, 2019, and we are proud of how far we have come.

Our mission to help individuals prepare for or advance in careers in the technically skilled workforce through short-term education, training, and certification has remained at the core of everything we do.

Through hard work and dedication, we are establishing ourselves in career and technical education. Our success is a testament to the strong roots we have built with our students, and we are committed to providing them with the tools and resources they need to succeed in their chosen paths.

As we continue to grow and evolve, we remain passionate and relentless in our pursuit to empower individuals and drive them towards success. Join us as we celebrate this remarkable milestone and look forward to many more years of transforming lives and shaping the future through technical education.

We will continue to push our limits and make the next five years even more remarkable as the nation’s first woman-owned and founded nonprofit career and technical school.

The Beginning of a Transformative Journey

In the spring of 2019, RW2 embarked on a transformative journey, laying the foundation for what would become a beacon of hope and progress in the realm of Career and Technical Education (CTE).

With a passionate and dedicated team composed of Samraje Rana, our drafting and design guru, along with Lynn Miller, Sean Crawford, and Chunda Hampton, who were maestros of soft skills, the inaugural class was launched on April 19.

Held at the WEB DuBois Center in Kansas City, Missouri, the initial program offering was Computer-Aided Design and Drafting (CADD), a skillset crucial for career opportunities in the architecture/engineering/construction and global design industries. 

This modest yet ambitious beginning marked the inception of an era of empowerment, determination, and innovation. RW2’s early commitment was clear: to not only educate but to revolutionize the way individuals were prepared for and approached their careers in the technical field.

With the help of professionals who were as compassionate as they were knowledgeable, RW2 aimed to create a nurturing environment where every student could realize their potential. This was more than just the start of a program; it was the birth of a community united in the pursuit of excellence and the creation of opportunities that would lead to lasting change.

Chunda Hampton, Soft Skills instructor, is leading students in a soft skills challenge.
Dr. Lynn Miller, Soft Skills and Job Search Instructor, working with students

RW2’s Mission: Empowering Through Education

At the heart of RW2 lies a mission as steadfast and compelling, if not more so, than the technical skills being taught: Changing the FACE; closing the gap in the nation’s technically skilled workforce.

It’s a bold endeavor aimed at narrowing the chasm within the nation’s technically skilled workforce. Why do we embark on this journey? Because at RW2, we believe in the power of education and training to not only open doors but to dismantle barriers, creating a world where equitable opportunities aren’t just a dream but a reality.

Our dedication is to capitalize on the power of individual resiliency of students while helping to equip them with the skills, knowledge, and certifications necessary to excel in careers within the technically skilled workforce. This mission is more than just a guiding light; it’s a promise. We promise to uplift, assist, and inspire every student with whom we work, preparing them not for just a job but for a career that can provide growth, stability, and fulfillment.

Through our commitment to this mission, we are not just teaching skills; we are igniting transformations, fostering an environment where academic and career excellence pave the way to a brighter and more equitable future.

Success Stories That Inspire

The inception of RW2 was not merely a leap of faith but a calculated stride towards revolutionizing post-secondary Career and Technical Education (CTE). Dr. Joy Vann-Hamilton (Dr. Joy), alongside pioneering instructors, envisioned a space where education transcended traditional boundaries. Their collective expertise and innovative spirit paved the way for RW2’s groundbreaking approach.

Dr. Joy Vann-Hamilton, Founder, CEO (in 2019)

What inspired you to start the RW2 CTE program?

When asked, what inspired you to start RW2, Dr. Joy responded with the following. “RW2 was started by faith and with the belief that post secondary career and technical education (CTE) could and should be different.”

A major reason that RW2 was started has to do with the word “different” that I referenced earlier. Like most businesses, RW2 was started to address a problem. During my tenure in the for-profit CTE section, I became frustrated with the business model where I saw too many students leaving with debt and no credential, not even a certificate.

At the same time, I loved the emphasis on industry-experienced instructors using their real world experience to help students prepare for career opportunities. What’s more, I also wanted to see more of a recognition of and collective emphasis on diversity as it relates to integrating students’ cultural knowledge and practices into the teaching and learning experience. Education and training are not one-size fits all.

“I conducted a lot of research and looked at different models of postsecondary education, including, of course, other CTE and non-traditional schools. Simultaneously, considerable time was spent doing research on and having conversations about curriculum and program offerings that would attract and allow potential students to obtain high-demand skills for high-demand entry-level careers, even without a degree.”

There was also lots of work developing procedures, policies, etc. that are important for establishing and maintaining an academic institution. These efforts, in combination with my 20+ years of experience across various sectors of postsecondary education, including non-profit CTE, allowed me to establish the framework for and launch what was initially called Resiliency at Work 2.0, offering a 14-week CADD program after which Revit for Building Information Modeling was soon added.

Can you share any student success stories from the RW2 CTE program that particularly stand out to you?

When I think of success stories at the outset of RW2, I always think of Edwin Torres. Edwin was one of our first students with work experience related to Heating Venting and Air Conditioning. He was motivated and focused. He completed both CADD and Revit/BIM. He was hired not long after completing Revit/BIM and went to work as a Revit Technician at US Engineering. He was only on the job in person for one week before COVID changed his work situation, requiring him to shift to work from home.

To me, this said everything about his personal discipline, confidence in himself, and skill set to succeed. Long story short, Edwin has received various promotions and is still with US Engineering.

  Edwin Torres

Another success story is related to Precious Felton. Precious had attended one of Kansas City’s for-profit CTE schools and was enrolled in a CADD program. By the time she enrolled in RW2, the for-profit school she had previously attended had closed its doors. Precious was intelligent and articulate. Before finishing her program with us, she was hired by Kaw Valley Engineering. While she’s used her skills in different positions since then, she has given back to RW2 as a presenter, encouraging others, especially females, to consider drafting and design and related career opportunities in the architecture, engineering, and construction industry.

 Precious Felton

Meynardo Montalbo is yet another success story that’s also part of RW2’s start. He enrolled in the CADD program to enhance the architectural skills he already possessed and was using in his career at BlueScope. Meynardo was quiet and determined. It was clear that he was focused on skilling up. While he was much older than the other students enrolled in the program, he easily engaged with them. Even with his years of knowledge and experience, he was very teachable. Meynardo is still with BlueScope making us proud and contributing his talents related to buildings and structures across the world.

Meynardo Montalbo

Sean Crawford

Sean Crawford was one of the original team members involved at the start of RW2 CTE. He shares his experience as a soft skills instructor and his thoughts on the impacting participants  

Sean Crawford Soft Skills Instructor and Advisor

What initially compelled me to join RW2 was Dr. Joy’s leadership and heart for students. I knew that Dr. Joy was someone who was a go-getter, and when she presented RW2 to me, it was something that I didn’t have to worry about wavering or being just a dream but a reality.

The specific aspects that motivated me to join were the life skills or soft skills portion. I have a passion for teaching people everyday skills, building their confidence, and helping them see that they can be whatever they want to be with the right skills.

Reflecting on my time with RW2, my most impactful moments have been pouring my all into students and being able to teach and relate to students all over the U.S., and in return, seeing them go off to get jobs and sending me personal cards and phone calls about how I helped them become better in life.

When I joined RW2, I was hoping to touch and teach one student at a time. I was hoping to stretch my teaching techniques and learn from students as well. I wanted to support RW2’s dream of making students resilient and successful in whatever area they chose: CAD, Revit BIM, and Cybersecurity.

Sitting on the board as well as being an instructor, I wanted to connect RW2 with as many resources and people as possible. Anything this team needed, I wanted to be boots on the ground to find. I feel that these goals are being met, and we will continue to grow under the impeccable leadership of Dr. Joy. I believe anything is possible.

Dr. Lynn Miller

Dr. Lynn
Soft Skills Lead and Advisor

Dr. Lynn Miller was also with RW2 CTE at the start as the lead soft skills instructor. She shares her reflections about her experience as follows. 

Can you share what initially drew you to be a part of RW2?

I wanted to work with Dr. Joy. We had worked together before,and I enjoyed her professionalism and knowledge about technology. I am a “Tech Geek Wannabe,” and I also believed in the program philosophy to get more women and minorities into the career fields of CADD and Revit/BIM, initially.

What specific aspects or goals of the program motivated you to join?

I was asked to work with her and develop the soft skills program. I LOVE motivating people to be their best selves. I wanted to also be a part of what I knew would be a ground-breaking way to educate and empower people with in-demand, high-paying job skills.

Reflecting on your time with RW2, what do you consider to be the most impactful contribution or achievement you’ve made through your work here?

The Soft Skills Curriculum is the most impactful contribution I’ve made through my work. I also created PowerPoint presentations of all the classes so that anyone could present them and add their own spin to them. And lastly, I work hard to make the PowerPoints engaging, informative, and fun.

You’ve been a foundational part of RW2 since its inception. When deciding to join, what were you hoping to achieve or contribute to the program, and how do you feel about those aspirations today?

All I wanted was to find out more and support Dr. Joy in expanding this initiative. I believe I have gained more knowledge than I had anticipated. I now know more about people and technology. I’ve improved my ability to listen and consider other people’s perspectives creatively. Speaking with students and instructors, assisting with enrollment, and learning a great deal about soft skills have all taught me a lot. Being a part of RW2 has taught me things that are enormous, mind-blowing, and tremendous. I am appreciative of the chance, and as RW2 expands, I hope to learn and do more.

These intimate conversations shed light on the unique ethos of RW2, revealing the collective dedication that fuels its innovative strides. As we delve deeper, each narrative uncovers the resilient spirit that permeates this thriving community.

Looking Forward: The Future of RW2 and CTE

The horizon holds boundless possibilities for RW2 and the evolving landscape of CTE. The vision for the future is clear as the school advances with unwavering dedication and unrelenting passion. RW2 is on the cusp of an era where innovation meets empowerment, driving a revolution in technical education that prepares students not just for the jobs of today, but for the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow.

Embracing the rapid advancements in technology and the ever-growing needs of the technically skilled workforce, RW2 is poised to expand its curriculum, embracing cutting-edge fields and pioneering new methods of learning.

The school’s commitment to access and equity will guide us as we break down barriers and open doors for more individuals to transform their lives through education.

As RW2 continues to nurture strong roots in the community and forge lasting relationships with referring and industry partners, the journey will inspire a new generation to reach higher, dream bigger, and achieve more. The goal? Redefine the boundaries of what’s possible in CTE by making a profound and lasting impact on individuals, communities, and the industries we serve.

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