Creating Pathways out of Poverty: Expert Perspective on Success

Written by Taria Person
Posted by Treasure Hightower


Welcome to SEEED’s Weekly Voice! Thank you for reading this blog. If you enjoy reading this post, like, leave a comment, and share.


I became affiliated with SEEED via its Career Readiness Program last year, so every chance that I get, I try to ask a student about their experience. Personally knowing about the impact that SEEED plays on young adults, who are creating pathways out of poverty for themselves, I was interested in hearing what Jamond Stacy had to say.


(Interview w/Jamond Stacy)

1)  What brought you to SEEED’s Energy Corps program?

I was looking for a job! I was talking to my neighbor about different options, and SEEED came up. My neighbor said that they were getting young adults certified, in like construction, and sending them out with contractors. So I went to check it out.


2) Can you express your experience of the Energy Corps Program?

It has been a great experience! People come in to teach math, to prepare us for tests and work in the field. I’ve also learned that a successful life is about making and keeping connections. Before, I joined the program, I never thought about going to an advisor, or about sustaining myself with financial goals that I had set. Yeah, my experience has been the many benefits coming out of this program.


3) SEEED’s mission is to “create pathways out of poverty for young adults through career readiness training, while equipping communities with environmental literacy skills.” How has the nonprofit’s mission statement influenced your life?

The part of the mission statement that sticks out to me is, “creating pathways out of poverty for young adults.” I have a lot of friends in poverty. I’m in poverty too, but if I follow through with what SEEED had said, I can be out of poverty one day soon. I’ve already started telling my friends about weatherizing houses, saving energy, and the importance of us all doing so.


4) In your opinion, what is the most important skill that a young adult needs, in order to be successful?

Perseverance. Life can get hard, and may even take a mental toll, but the key to success, is to fight through. Some days you might not want to get up for work (or whatever), but you got to fight through. Keep a positive attitude about yourself, and positivity will come to you.


This is SEEED’s Weekly Voice. Until next time, keep growing!

What’s Happening?

Graduation for Energy Corps

Interview w/ Energy Corps Trainee | Jordan Littlejohn

SEEED KNOX: Interview w/ Energy Corps Trainee | Jordan LittleJohn.
Written by Taria Person 
Posted by Treasure Hightower 

Thank you for visiting SEEED’s Weekly Voice, and checking out the progress of Knoxville’s young adults! Please check out our website ( and our FB page for updates on future/previous blog posts.

Last week I had the privilege of speaking with Jordan Littlejohn, which is a trainee–who has made it to the second round–within the Energy Corps Program. We talked about his plans and aspirations, and the influence and importance of community engagement. Here is what he expressed, regarding his experience at SEEED. Enjoy!

(Interview w/Jordan Littlejohn and Taria Person)

Person: Hey! My name is Taria Person. I’m the community engagement specialist and blogger, here at SEEED. Nice to meet you.

Littlejohn: Hey, I’m Jordan Littlejohn. Nice to meet you, too.

Person: So Jordan, tell me your SEEED story. How were you informed about the nonprofit, and the Energy Corp Program?

Littlejohn: I ride my skateboard by SEEED all the time. I had no clue what it was all about, but I saw a flyer as I was riding by one day, and I was interested.

Person: What are your plans and aspirations while you are in the program? What do you plan on getting out of this program?

Littlejohn: I plan to get my certificate, first. It will be good to work with a personal contractor in a new line of work, also. I came here to advance because I got tired of working, but not making improvements because of where I was at.

Person: Okay. What are the three most compelling lessons, you’ve received from the Energy Corps Program?

Littlejohn: Debra Porter, Davett Jones, and the hands on & community training we’ve been doing. Debra Porter talked about bank accounts, and the importance of knowing where your money is going. Davett Jones taught us, “Who Taught You To Be Broke?” I will never forget her. She taught us some real money saving tips. The hands on stuff, I love that approach because that’s where I learn the most. Being able to go out into the community…to really be productive, that’s where I learn. I’m not just sitting in the classroom, so it’s more of a learning experience for me.

Person: Is SEEED a program that you believe can be beneficial to young adults?

Littlejohn: Most definitely. I’m benefiting. Ever since I started, it’s been something positive everyday. It’s like a spirit. It’s a good spirit going on. I feel like any young adult can come to this program and feel the same way I feel about it. There’s nothing but good vibes about this place. I remember a time Ms. Mandy got emotional when talking to us; she got serious. She let us know how serious she is about us. It shows, that it’s not just people here helping you. They show love. They have emotions, and the work means something to them all. At that point I was like, ‘Okay. SEEED is a place where I want to be connected.’

Person: Thank you for that response. Here is my last question. What do you believe everyone young person needs in order to succeed?

Littlejohn: Motivation. If you don’t keep yourself motivated, you’ll fall down. I’ve been there before. That’s what I do now. You keep yourself motivated, you aren’t ever going to fail or lose.

Person: I definitely appreciate this interview, and it was such a pleasure speaking with you.

Littlejohn: Hey! Thank you for coming to me and including me. I appreciate it.

Please join me in congratulating Jordan Littlejohn on his development and accomplishments! Don’t forget to like, comment, and share this blog post. Thank you so much for reading SEEED’s Weekly Voice. Until next time, keep growing!

SEEED: Building a Foundation for Success

Have you ever scanned the interior compartments of a fully stocked toolbox, and wondered if a task was achievable with a lesser amount of supplies? Maybe…maybe not? Aware that everyone’s leisure time does not consist of hammers and screwdrivers, let’s focus on the “a lesser amount of supplies” part. For instance, you have a project, let’s say it’s project, “building a box.” 



Sure, we know nothing is impossible. We know that an ordinary-old-box can be built with a handsaw, a hammer, and a few screws from the dollar store. However, the question is how could we make the box more durable and the process more efficient? I’ve asked four employees at SEEED (including myself) for opinions, regarding tools that young adults need in order to succeed. Here is what was shared:


Mandy Proffitt, Program Director

Mandy Proffitt says, “Every young adult needs attitude. According to Henry Ford, ‘Whether you think you can or whether you think you can’t, you’re right.’ If you think you’re headed in the right direction, you’re most likely right.”


Kesha Williams, Program Coordinator

Kesha Williams says, “One thing any young adult needs is professionalism (across the board). Appearance, attitude, performance, showing up and being punctual. Professionalism and success work together.”


Treasure Hightower, Marketing Director

Treasure Hightower says, “I think every young adult needs support, in order to succeed. Young adults need people in their corner to give encouragement, and help with developing skills.”


Taria Person, Community Outreach Coordinator/Blogger

Taria Person says, “I believe that a young adult with a vision and a plan, has the potential to go a long way. When you’re prepared, it’s easier to set action to aspirations and to obtain the goal.”



Let’s congratulate our SEEED trainees for approaching their third week in the Energy Corps Program! Currently, they are exploring Life Skills and Job Acquisition Skills courses, and will be evaluated as a potential candidate for paid training and job placement, with a contractor in the building or energy trades. 

Until next time, think about the skills you can put in your toolbox, and keep growing!

Meet the Staff: Rick Held

Interview w/Rick Held about the Energy Corps Program at SEEED

Written by Taria Person
Posted by Treasure Hightower 


Welcome to SEEED’s Weekly Voice! Yesterday, I had the honor of interviewing the Director of Community Engagement at SEEED, Rick Held. The conversation was inspirational and refreshing. I experienced Rick’s passion for SEEED, green jobs, and community engagement, through his story and vision for our future. I would like to share some of the interview with you all. Enjoy! 


Taria Person: Hi Rick! Thank you so much for interviewing with me today.


Rick Held: My pleasure.


Taria Person: SEEED’s mission is “to create pathways out of poverty for young adults through career readiness training, while equipping communities with environmental literacy skills.” What’s your role, in regards to SEEED, and its mission? Also, could you tell the story of how your SEEED journey began?


Rick Held: My role as Director of Community Engagement, is to help our at-risk communities discover and claim our resilience.  It’s about recovering and preserving the economic and environmental health and well-being of our low-income and working class communities. We are the communities that tend to get hit first, and are affected the worst, as far as, climate change and extreme weather. Community engagement is about coming together to find our own ways to turn these threats into opportunities.


As far as my SEEED journey, it began after I was laid off as a social studies teacher at Austin East High School. I heard about people in the community who were excited about President Obama’s plan to bring green jobs to the community. The people I was hearing about were Stan Johnson (Director of SEEED), and some young leaders he was working with (Jerome Johnson, Jarius Bush, and Joshua Outsey). Next thing I know, I’m sitting in the back yard talking with these fired-up young men about knocking on doors to see if people were interested in green jobs. Indeed they were, as it turns out.


Taria Person: Thank you. Right now, SEEED is accepting applications for its Energy Corps Program. The program, essentially, has two major components: life and career skills, followed by job training and placement. What type of candidates are ideal for this type of opportunity?


Rick Held: The best candidates for this opportunity are people who are not afraid to work or get dirty, and who want to learn more about construction trades…that are interested in construction trades, especially in energy services, such as weatherization, solar, etc. A big plus would be to find candidates that care about their community, and realize that this is an opportunity to have a job that helps the community save energy, money, and the environment. A trifecta of benefits in one job. 


Taria Person: Essentially, the Energy Corps Program is a job. Could you give a brief overview of the application process through the successful completion of the program? Also, could you express why is it important to inform people that the Energy Corps Program is a paid opportunity?



Rick Held: Sure. The first round of applicants will be reviewed, and in that process, we are looking for people who have a strong work ethic. That’s who we are looking for! Then we’ll interview folks and answer their questions. We’re accepting up to twelve people to begin the program, which will be the career skills portion such as, job acquisition, confidence building, resume building, personal accountability, interview practices, professional attire, etc. 


We are still working out if the program will be a nine or twelve week program, but the classes and trainings are three afternoons a week. While they are in the program, they will receive a hundred-dollar stipend, and lunch is included! After the first couple of weeks, we will evaluate students to see if they are a good fit for the Energy Corp Program. 


If they are a good fit, we will place them with a construction contractor for a solid week of on the job training, to get a real world feel for the work. They will also take introductory construction classes in the classroom, as well as, have hands on project experience taught by contractors. After a full week of on-the-job training, the trainees will come back into the classroom to take energy services classes for Weatherization Retrofit Installation Technician and how to test for Building Envelope and Duct Leakage.  This will give them an extra skill set to make them more valuable to an energy contractor.


Assuming successful completion of those courses, the trainee will be placed in a full time entry level position with the contractor they were training with.


Taria Person: Wow! This definitely sounds like a great opportunity.


Rick Held: Exactly. It’s the real deal.


Taria Person: For 7 years, SEEED has only had a Career Readiness Program. What kind of impact does the Energy Corps Program have in relation to SEEED, the staff at SEEED, and the community?


Rick Held: The impact that the Energy Corps Program has on SEEED, is that it is making us get more real about our mission, regarding pathways out of poverty through environmental literacy. There are all kinds of training programs in the community that will train people in certain skills, but there aren’t as many that will be able to place people in real jobs based on the skills they learn from the program. This is where we think SEEED stands out. We are actually working with contractors to design a program that imparts the skills that the contractors want, in order to hire the most qualified trainees after the program.  


Taria Person: That was a really great response.


Rick Held: (Laughs) Thank you!


Taria Person: What are some things that people can expect from the future of SEEED? And what makes you the proudest in your role at SEEED?


Rick Held: You can expect that people from city hall to the hood are going to recognize that SEEED is the real deal, when it comes to developing young people to make positive contributions to this community. What I’m most proud of are two things. First, that we’re still doing this, better than ever after eight years…starting in Stan’s backyard. I mean people didn’t know what to think of us six or seven years ago, and really didn’t take us seriously. But we’re proving them wrong! Second, there has been, and are so many people doing great things in the community, and other communities, that came from SEEED’s program. They are really doing great things out there, which includes the work that you are doing. 


Taria Person: Awww thanks.


Rick Held: It’s true! Thank you for this interview. 


Taria Person: Its been a pleasure. 


If you know of anyone who would be interested in the Energy Corps Program, have them apply at the SEEED location at 1617 Dandridge Ave, Knoxville, TN 37915. Look forward to seeing you all soon. Until next time, keep growing! 



What’s Happening Next?



Green Tie Event: Tonight is the Night!

Written by Taria Person
Welcome to SEEED’s Weekly Voice! Tonight, June 8th from 6-8PM, the students of the Career Readiness Program will cross the graduation stage beginning the next journey of their careers. During the event,  there will be entertainment from local artists Joshua Outsey, The Dixion Family, Taria Person: The Realest Person, and one of the soon to be graduates, Sean Brown a.k.a Rodman.
At the Green Tie Event, testimonies and highlights will be shared of the students engaging with people in Knoxville communities, food and beverages will be served, and a good time will be experienced, one that these young individuals will have as a lasting memory. Each student has worked hard via breaking the canvassing record this year, knocking on over 500 doors; now it’s time to celebrate their accomplishments! We really hope to see you there tonight!
Tickets are $30 in advance and $35 at the door. If you haven’t already purchased your ticket, go to or call SEEED @ (865) 766-5185 to show your support for the continuous drive towards “creating pathways out of poverty for young adults.” Until next time, keep growing!

Knoxville! Come be Fly in your Green Tie!

Written by Taria Person
Welcome back to SEEED’s Weekly Voice! It’s almost time for this semesters Green Tie event–a graduation for young adults, ages 16-28 within SEEED’s Career Readiness Program. The event will be located at the Overcoming Believers Church, next Thursday June 8, 2017. We are extremely proud of the Spring Class of 2017. They assisted in a successful turnout for the Morningside Job fair, due to knocking on more than 500 doors.
Please help us congratulate our students, and celebrate the continuous journey of “creating pathways out of poverty” for these young and excellent individuals. There will be food and beverages, entertainment, and the rest, are you will have to witness front row and center! Tell everyone you know, we can’t wait to see you all. Until next time, keep growing!
Green Tie Event
June 8, 2017 from 6:00-8:00PM
@ OBC located at 211 Harriet Tubman St, Knoxville, TN 37915

Career Readiness: Practicing Environmental Literacy

Written by Taria Person

This past Tuesday, I went to Concerts on the Square in Market Square, which was phenomenal by the way. While I was sitting, I saw an older gentleman carrying starter plant, so I said, “Oooh starter plants. What kind of plants are they?” His response was that they were tomato plants he was selling. I was in awe and extremely ecstatic to see another individual in Knoxville passionate about environmental literacy.

Soon after, the man was waltzing through the audience of people sharing more knowledge of what’s he had and why. It was a beautiful experience to witness! It had me wondering, how do we continue to share environmental literacy with our communities? What are our personal contributions to environmental literacy within our communities? Think about it and help out today. Until next time keep growing!

Career Readiness: What’s your Pathway out of Poverty?

Written by Taria Person

Welcome back to another week of SEEED’s Weekly Voice. This week we’re sharing a personal narrative from Career Readiness graduate, Taria Person. Comment and share your personal stories with us here at SEEED Knox!

When I was in the Career Readiness Program, a life changing statement came to me in the form of graffitied-etchings in the margins of my notebook. The repetitive bolded phrase was, “Start Today!” So there I am, chuckling to myself, during the Time Management class about consistent, active movement in my career.

Honestly, who is as passionate about your vision as you are? Nothing is impossible, but who sees your vision the way you see it? Who will do what it takes to make your dream tangible?

There are many facets of poverty–financial, spiritual, mental, physical, and many times it’s hard to work on one when others overlap.
For myself, it was a hard realization to face, but definitely a necessary one. A couple of months ago, I dwelled on my past and all that I’ve done, that should have me here and there, and the words came in an influx; however, Stan Johnson, Director of SEEED, asked me to do the Past | Present | Future exercise.

Stan had me write down everything that was holding me back from my past, the present, which was usually spent on what happened or what I wanted to happen, followed by the anxiety of not knowing what’s in the future.  I’m not perfect and none of us are, but we do have the power to reroute our journey, pause and pick back up where we left off. Go ahead and ask yourself right now, “What am I doing TODAY to find my pathways out of poverty?” Remember to Start Today! Until next time keep growing.

Career Readiness: Applying the Skills

Written by Taria Person
Last week, our group of passionate students within the Career Readiness Program, applied life and job skills at several community events. Some of those events were the Morningside Job Fair, canvassing for the job fair, People in the Garden: Healthy Food Fair, and a visit to Master Dry.
Thursday April 27, The Morningside Job Fair consisted of 16 companies and 140 job seekers. One company hired 45 people on the spot! Our CRP students used their experience while participating in this fair, and volunteering to ensure the success of the event.
Sunday April 30, we had the People in the Garden: Healthy Food Fair at SEEED Knox. People in the community enjoyed healthy food samples, cookbooks, saw our finished greenhouse, received seeds and plants, gardening literacy and learned about the mission of SEEED.
At Master Dry, the students were inspired by owner, Josh Smith’s words of inspiration, while touring the facility. Special thanks to Mr. Smith and Master Dry’s Community Ambassador, Kathryn Ann Holt, for hosting the event for our students.
If you missed the events from last week, don’t worry there will be more to come. Please comment and share your thoughts with us here at SEEED Knox.
Until next time, keep growing!

Morningside Job Fair at SEEED

Written by Taria Person 

This Thursday, Save our Sons and SEEED Knox will host the Morningside Job Fair, which several companies will attend. SEEED and Save our Sons have been dedicated to making sure that young individuals in the community of Knoxville have access to information and resources for a successful future.
Many of the Career Readiness students expressed their excitement about the job fair, and how it’s a great opportunity to showcase skills they have obtained from program. “I feel like I’m ready, because SEEED has equipped me with the resources”, Makaylen Roserie stated (2017 student of Career Readiness Program).
This event is open to the community, so we hope to see you there! The job fair will be April 27, 2017 at 6:00PM-8:00PM at 1617 Dandridge Ave, Knoxville, TN 37915.
The job fair will provide:
  • Hiring on the spot
  • Career opportunities
  • Jobs for ex-offenders
  • Background checks
  • Resume building
  • FREE pizza!
We can’t wait to see you all. Until next time, keep growing!