AJ stands out among his peers as a hard worker with a big heart.

When he was a junior, AJ enrolled in Mrs. Nusbaum’s Applied Employability class at West De Pere High School. The class opened the door for AJ to gain hands-on work experience through Goodwill NCW’s School-to-Work program at the Ashwaubenon store.

“In the class, we work on skills needed to be an employee, like arriving on time, having a good attitude, interacting with customers and progressing from simple one-step directions to more complex tasks. I could mimic those at school, but it would be artificial,” Carissa Nusbaum, Special Education Teacher said. “I love that we have an actual work environment in the community where the students can learn the skills that they can take into other jobs.”

When AJ started the School-to-Work program, he acknowledges he needed to improve his communication skills. “I had social anxiety. I didn’t want to talk to anyone, ask questions or ask for help. Over time, I learned to talk to other people,” AJ said.

The experience boosted AJ’s confidence. The summer after high school, he worked up the courage to talk to the Store Team Leader, Rosa McMorrow, to see if there was an open position.

“I was able to walk up to Rosa and ask her if I could be a team member. It took me a while to be able to get to that point in my life to ask for a huge opportunity like that,” AJ said.

AJ working with Rosa in Goodwill

Rosa had observed AJ’s interactions with his classmates, and she was excited to welcome him as a team member. “One of the things that stood out with AJ was the kindness and patience he showed toward his peers. I knew he would be a great fit,” Rosa said.

AJ lights up when he talks about his journey. “I’m most proud of going from being a School-to-Work program participant to becoming a team member. It raised my confidence tremendously. It shows me how great of a job I can do if I put my mind to anything,” AJ said. “I’m glad I asked to be a team member because I just love doing my job.”

AJ working at Goodwill

Since he was hired, AJ has continued to grow in his career path, elevating from Donor Greeter to Senior Production Specialist.

To top it off, AJ’s hard work has allowed him to pursue his interests at home too. “It definitely helped my financial stability. I was able to save up my money to buy a gaming PC. I’ve always wanted a gaming PC. My favorite thing to do at home is game.”

Rosa anticipates more successes in AJ’s future.

“If AJ wants to stay with Goodwill, the possibilities are endless here. He’d be a great leader. He lives our organizational values every day,” Rosa said.