How Goodwill Changed My Life Through the Power of Work

By Lowell Butler, MPA, MEd

In 2016 I came to Goodwill of San Antonio after completing a second term of Service with AmeriCorps VISTA. In my first role as Volunteer Program Coordinator, I worked at the downtown location registering and performing brief orientations for individuals assigned to community service at one our Goodwill locations. In my free time I was also working toward completing my masters degree in public administration. My final project was essentially building on my work in AmeriCorps comparing the Dignowity Neighborhood to the rest of the Eastside Promise Zone.  

My director who formerly worked for the Mayor's Office before coming to Goodwill of San Antonio really went out of his way to help me complete my final project. He recommended and introduced me to a few community leaders in his network and gave me some flexibility with my work assignments which allowed to me to complete interviews for the research portion of the project. 

A few months before I was due to graduate, I was given an opportunity to work on the Upgrade Program. This program was a collaboration between Goodwill of San Antonio and SAEP to increase the number of Texans with college degrees or post secondary credentials. As a College Access and Success Advisor I developed an understanding of the college admissions process in Texas and the various degree programs geared toward adult learners. I ended up enrolling at a partner college WGU Texas because I was impressed with their competency-based education model. I eventually earned degrees in education and business. In fact, Goodwill's director of training and development also took time out of her day to answer questions about effective preparation and obstacles for instructional design.   

This is also when I discovered my passion for working with adult learners returning to college. 

After spending a year at SAEP I returned to work with the Career Navigator team working with high school juniors and seniors to develop and execute their post secondary plans. It was during this time I was given two more opportunities to develop my evolving skillset. Over the summer I got to co-author our program's theoretical approach. This allowed us to articulate not only why and how we performed our work as Career Navigators, but where our services fit into campus based programming.

The other opportunity was working on the Upskill Program. This program allowed team members to earn either a combination of college credit and digital badges from Palo Alto College in in-demand fields, and I got to utilize all of the knowledge I learned from my year at SAEP to successfully guide 35 team members through the admissions process. I was selected for the Going Above and Beyond Award that October!

Today I am a MBKSA College Pathways Manager at UP Partnership working to improve outcomes for Boys and Young Men of Color. Goodwill through its work with Opportunity Youth is a part of our systems change network and our network's Leadership Table. I am currently participating on an education policy fellowship through Texas Tech, where my policy project will focus on the detrimental impact of transfer holds. I am also pursing my Ed.D., in Higher Education Administration, where my research interest are adult learners re-enrolling in college and alternative learning models.

Goodwill has played a pivotal role in shaping my identity as a professional and scholar. Which is just another way of saying Goodwill had also changed my life through the power of work.

Reflecting on my time at Goodwill I credit my success to the leaders and coworkers that have really embodied Servant Leadership. These types of leaders take a special interest in the growth and development of those around them and I am immensely thankful that I was the beneficiary.    

Lowell worked at Goodwill of San Antonio from 2016-2020. Current team members can inquire about professional development opportunities by reaching out to the Training and Development team.