Portraits of MAP

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About a month ago, I wrote a story on an employment-readiness program in south Madison that helps people who may not be well-served by more traditional job training.  People who have been out of school for years or haven’t finished high school may need more than resume workshops to find a job that could support them or their families.

The Madison Apprenticeship Program is filling an important niche for some residents who live near south Madison’s Allied Drive, an area with one of the city’s highest unemployment rates, number of subsidized apartments and families living in poverty

In short, the program is much-needed.  If the solution to poverty is jobs, then the answer to decreasing the poverty rate in Madison means helping people find and maintain employment.   If you’re interested in reading more on MAP, you’re welcome to check out the link to the longer story.

To be fair, the story is a fairly typical example of covering this kind of program and writing about it in a positive light.  I wouldn’t say my attempt was clichéd, but it was a little formulaic.  I covered the issue, I explained the program, then I found a few success stories.  MAP was happy for the press, my editor was satisfied and the article even earned a few facebook likes.  That’s how you know you’ve done good work.

But I can’t say I told the entire story.  The way I felt before I wrote the article is the same way I feel now–each program participant brings his or her own story to the classroom, and each is rich and worthy of attention.  Whether it’s a success story or an example of someone struggling, it’s real life.  Happy or sad, it’s the good stuff.

After I wrote the story, I wanted more. So I  packed my camera and recorder and drove to Allied Drive two nights a weeks.  I’ve been going since October.  Sometimes, I just sit in the classroom and dont say a word.  Sometimes I ask a person to go into another room and tell me his or her story.  I’ve gone into homes, I’ve gone to church.  In other words, I’ve hung out.

The slide show you’ll find below is first in a series of portraits I’m arranging for people who are involved with MAP.  I thought it only proper that I start with Diana Shinall, the program’s founder, director and instructor.

Shinall may know hard times as well as any of the students who come through her door.  A native of Gary, Indiana, Shinall experienced divorce, stood by her son as he faced prison time, and endured the death of her grandson–all at the same time.  Shinall wrote a book, My Struggles, Your Struggles, They’re all the Same, which now she hands to each MAP participant when they enroll in class.

Shinall has lived in Madison since the early 00s, after she packed up her car and came looking for a fresh start.  With her background in social work, Shinall started her own case management brokerage firm.  She plugged herself into the city by serving as a community service commissioner and began voicing her concerns that the Allied Neighborhood wasn’t getting the help it needed.

Shinall eventually received a grant from the city to put toward MAP.  Since then, the program has slowly grown, taken on employees and moved to a new office off Verona Road.  But despite the programs’ successes, Shinall floats the program on what seems like exhausting hours and sheer hustle, always looking for more funding and ways to meet the ends.

When I put together this slide show, I didn’t try to crunch her life story into a three-minute audio track.  I tried to capture her essence, find the core of what makes Shinall tick.  She may have misgivings about how she’s presented, but I saw faith is more than a philosophy that Shinall preaches on Sundays.

Click the photo to watch the slideshow

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