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Job Front: Holiday surprise for 22 trainees

Published: Monday, Dec. 24, 2012 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Monday, Dec. 24, 2012 - 7:01 am

Justin Long thought he was in trouble. Angela Divens didn't know what to expect.

But when the two Center for Employment Training students were told to report to the school's front lobby Thursday morning, they rushed over right away.

Twenty other students at the CET vocational school in Sacramento's Depot Park received the same call that morning less than a week before Christmas.

Turns out, it was not for an admonition, but something to make their holidays a little brighter.

Inside 22 plain white envelopes were $100 each, a gift for each of the students donated by CET's national board of directors.

The nonprofit center and its sister campuses across the country provide vocational training, financial and career counseling.

The students were chosen not only for their work in the classroom, but also for their dedication and need.

"Thank you for making it, for getting over whatever you were getting over," said Rachel Wickland, CET's Sacramento director. "You guys are awesome."

And they were overwhelmed. Amid the cheers, hugs and tears, Divens couldn't help herself.

The nursing administration student ran to Wickland, giving her a hearty embrace.

"This is right on time," Divens said later of the gift. "I feel blessed. I'm going to do for my family what CET did for me."

Long – who is studying heating/ventilation/air conditioning, or HVAC, systems – quickly found out he wasn't in trouble after all.

"This," Long said, clutching his gift envelope, "is going home for the holidays. I thought we were doing what we were supposed to be doing as students. Effort pays off."

Wickland said she was as surprised as her students when she was notified of the donations last week by CET's San Jose headquarters.

"I started crying, I was so overwhelmed," Wickland said. "Knowing that some of these students will have a little easier Christmas, it was really a blessing. And our students deserve it."

Things haven't come easy for many CET students.

Many come for a fresh start in a new trade, to earn a GED, or to get back on their feet and into the workforce.

For the 22 men and women who received the checks, $100 will go a long way this holiday season.

"The guys we chose, they've overcome things," said Scott Chew, an HVAC instructor. "One lost a home, but never missed a class. I've got a story for every one of them."

For Divens, who will soon leave the center after earning a GED and medical administration training, the Christmastime gift left her humbled.

"Unexpected blessings," she said. "I feel so privileged that they would take the time to appreciate us like that. Any word you can choose, that's how I feel."

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