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It's Graduation Season!

It's Graduation Season!

Families around the world are getting ready to celebrate their newest graduates, and here at Parker Clay, we're no different. Just replace tuition with living wages, add Stitching 101 to the schedule, and don't forget to bring some Ethiopian coffee to the party!
This April, we're celebrating our fourth class of graduates from Parker Clay Ethiopia's Center of Excellence. Before we go any further, a huge congratulations to these 10 incredible people.
 
Graduating From Assistants to Level 1 Stitching Experts
Zerfe Wedajo
Eyerusalem Kelkil
Eyerusalem Wendwosen
Eyerusalem Getachew
Hana Legese
Bertukan Girma
Helen Habtamu
Addisalem Tsegaye
From Cleaning Staff to Level 1 Stitching Experts
Melkam Tesema
From Loading Dock to Cutting Assistant
Simachew Yayehyirad
Now that you know who we're celebrating, let's move on to what exactly we're celebrating them for!
What is the Center of Excellence?
The Center of Excellence is our way of providing vocational growth, skills training, and advanced opportunities for our employees. Those who wish to sign up can climb the ladder by taking extended courses to learn new job skills and responsibilities. 
Who can join the Center of Excellence?
Any employee that has shown strong work ethic, performance, and desire for additional responsibility can sign up for these classes. Typically, Assistants from a particular department will take advanced classes to become Experts, eventually leading a team of Assistants themselves. But as you'll find out, some employees make a different path!
Climbing The Ladder: Melkam Tesema
All of our graduates deserve the spotlight, but Melkam's story is one we're especially proud to share. While Parker Clay's founders were living in Ethiopia, Melkam worked as their house-cleaner; and once the factory was established in Addis Ababa, she was one of the earliest employees, working around the clock to keep the factory floor a clean, safe workplace for all.
Her name means "happy" in Amharic, and she truly is the embodiment of joy! All those photos of people laughing at the ceremony? Surely Melkam's handiwork. Her laugh is beyond infectious and never ceases to light up the room.
Melkam– why don't you tell your story yourself?
I didn't know how to stitch. I'd never even touched the machine before! The rest of the class were all assistant stitchers and I was a cleaning lady, but I would stay late to finish cleaning anyway and thought, "Why not learn with them?". 
I didn't do the full four months of training – I joined a month later, so I felt a bit behind, but our trainer always encouraged me very much, so that helped. I was tasked with making five bags during the course of the program; one small bag, one for men, and three for women. They all came out.. mostly good! I was told to pick one to keep and take home, and first I liked the men's one the most, until someone said it was meant for men. I chose my favorite of the women's bags instead!
Since our graduation, we all go back to our regular jobs for the moment. But now, to practice during my free time, I help stitch the burlap bags we use to protect finished products while they travel. Our trainer also had one-on-one time with each of us to advise us on how to improve, and what we should work on. I'm a straight-forward person so we got along just fine! Sure, I made mistakes, but how else should someone learn?
What Melkam won't tell you is that she was the absolute superstar of the class – encouraging, entertaining, and endlessly confident.
On April 2nd, we welcomed the 4th class to pass through our Center of Excellence to their graduation ceremony. Our Production Manager, Kibreab, spoke about each graduate and brought them up to receive a small token of thanks and their choice of the bags they made during the program. We topped off the day with cake, cookies, and of course, some lovely Ethiopian coffee!
Please join us again in congratulating all ten of our new graduates – their work ethic, pride, and determination is what makes Parker Clay such a special team to be a part of. 
Thank you Class of 2021!

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