Reprinted with permission from Crain's Cleveland Business, April 2015.
ANTHONY ADKISSON - WHO TO WATCH IN NONPROFITS
Program manager, Pathways to Work Adult Reentry Program Towards Employment
By TIMOTHY MAGAW
Admittedly, Anthony Adkisson is addicted to learning — “a self-proclaimed nerd and geek,” as he likes to characterize it. With two degrees already in tow, Adkisson is hard at work finishing up his doctorate at Cleveland State University. But while he's afforded himself a thorough education, he knows others aren't so lucky, particularly those with a checkered past. So much
attention, too, is paid to K-12 education, which is why he's devoted much of his career to adult learners.
“A lot of people don't get that opportunity to go to school, but I learned there are other ways of learning that aren't formal education,” said Adkisson, a Youngstown native. He added, “Adult learners have this drive and want to learn and use their experiences to better themselves.”
This year, Adkisson was chosen to manage a three-year, $2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Labor at Towards Employment, a Cleveland-based nonprofit devoted to finding jobs for ex-offenders and the poor. Adkisson is developing a so-called pathways program that recruits participants from Oriana House and the Salvation Army's Harbor Light program and offers them job training, particularly in the manufacturing, construction and hospitality industries.
“The biggest misconception out there is that once an offender, always an offender,” Adkisson said. “Once somebody has done something, they seem to wear that scarlet letter. “People think they'll always be looking to offend or go back on the streets. But sometimes, they go back to what's easiest because no one has given them a second chance.”
Between his schooling and his work at Towards Employment, Adkisson said he finds little time for hobbies. He likes camping and hiking, although he wishes he had more time for them both. It doesn't seem to faze him, though, given that he's so passionate about helping people better themselves. His coworkers say his commitment, collaborative spirit and sense of humor are inspirational to the entire Towards Employment team.
“He is committed and has a passion for what we do,” said Robin Smalley, Towards Employment's director of programs. “In this kind of work, you have to have that commitment and a passion. His is at a very high level and very evident in all that he does.” Adkisson has spent the bulk of his career in nonprofits. Before Towards Employment, he worked at the AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland and Planned Parenthood of Northeast Ohio.
And while he's about to polish off his doctorate, he doesn't plan to leave his work and pursue a career in higher education. At least not now, he said he has too much work to do. “I like helping these people achieve their dreams and goals,” he said. “When you go to school, get your degree and get an education, you always think about how you can use it. I'm applying here what I've learned.”
© 2015 Crain Communications Inc.